After Reading John Clare on Thoughts of A Cow

Tom Hennen

There are deep hoofprints in the soft ground around the
wooden water tank. A steel windmill with its fan blades spin-
ning free in the summer wind. No water pumping because the
connecting lever is not in gear and the tank is full. Thick green
moss floats here and there on the water’s surface. Blue sky and
white clouds reflect in the pool, pulled out of heaven in a piece
just the right size to fit the old round wooden tank. The cow
yard is empty, the cows in the far pasture, strolling its hills for
grass, slowly, with quiet pleasure as if on a boulevard in Paris,
France. Nothing about a cow yard enters their thoughts until
late afternoon when I come with the dog to fetch them home.
Then they amble, dust stirred from its summer stupor by their
hard hooves that kick up the smell of dirt and powdered dung.
After the long walk from the pasture they remember they are
thirsty. Now in a hurry, they crowd around the water tank.
They drink and drink. When one raises her head, water and
setting sunlight drip from nose and muzzle. With a tin cup I
drink icy water from the pump and pour some into a pan for
the dog. The cows are dry of milk until fall. Now all they need
do is sleep. From the east dusk is sliding across the fields. Frogs
and crickets are tuning up, fireflies cannot wait and are air-
borne before the sun is completely down. The summer night
settles weightless as a feather on the grass. The windmill turn-
ing, cold water running out of the iron pipe into the tank, far-
off bells, and the murmur of starlight falling on water.

Peak Summer

Eric Nixon

We’re steeped deep in summer
And everything around me
Seems to indicate it’ll never end
But still I’m spending time
Looking for the subtle signs
Trying to figure out when
We’ve reached peak summer
When the billion green trees
Start to dull ever so slightly
When the bounty of vegetables
Found at all the local farm stands
Start thinning in quantity and quality
When the Halloween candy
Appears in the supermarkets
And the Back To School! signs
Show up in the big box stores
When the sun sets a little earlier
And gets a little more noticeable
Each night, night after night
Until you start thinking about
How much daylight you’ve lost
All of the signs and all of the things
I’ve been noticing are telling me
That we’re right in the midst of
Peak summer and if I’m not careful
It’ll be completely over
And I’ll have missed it entirely
As the season folds into fall

Primitive

Joyce Sutphen

How lucky we are that we do not live
in the time of the Plague, when, in three

years a third of Europe’s population––
20 million people––died, and no one

knew the cause. How fortunate we
are to know that it was not the planets

or the wrath of God that caused it
but a tiny bacillus carried by fleas

on the backs of rats coming by ship
from Asia, and how much better it is

to live now, rather than in 1891, when
Thomas Edison filed patents for

the first motion picture camera and viewer,
which operated on a perceptual phenomenon

called “persistence of vision”––a thing that
tricked the brain into thinking it was seeing

seamless movement as the viewer stared
through a tiny peephole and beheld the

gray-and-black image of a horse, galloping.
This is what I think about as I leaf through

the ads for flat-screen TVs in today’s paper
or click a button on my phone to watch

a video posted from a pub in Ireland. Aren’t
we lucky that we have no idea how primitive

our lives will seem one day? How appalling
to realize that our best cures for cancer will

look like a form of torture and that we really
thought we couldn’t be everywhere at once.

The Thing Is

Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have not stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)]

e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Love Sorrow

Mary Oliver

Love sorrow. She is yours now, and you must
take care of what has been
given. Brush her hair, help her
into her little coat, hold her hand,
especially when crossing the street. For, think,

what if you should lose her? Then you would be
sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness
would be yours. Take care, touch
her forhead that she feel herself not so

utterly alone. And smile, that she does not
altogether forget the world before the lesson.
Have patience in abundance. And do not
ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment

by herself, which is to say, possibly, again,
abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult,
sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child.
And amazing things can happen. And you may see,

as the two of you go
walking together in the morning light, how
little by little she relaxes; she looks about her;
she begins to grow.

The Winter of Listening

David Whyte

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire,

what disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Even with the summer
so far off
I feel it grown in me
now and ready
to arrive in the world.

All those years
listening to those
who had
nothing to say.

All those years
forgetting
how everything
has its own voice
to make
itself heard.

All those years
forgetting
how easily
you can belong
to everything
simply by listening.

And the slow
difficulty
of remembering
how everything
is born from
an opposite
and miraculous
otherness.

Silence and winter
has led me to that
otherness.

So let this winter
of listening
be enough
for the new life
I must call my own.

Winter Grace

Patricia Fargnoli

If you have seen the snow
under the lamppost
piled up like a white beaver hat on the picnic table
or somewhere slowly falling
into the brook
to be swallowed by water,
then you have seen beauty
and know it for its transience.
And if you have gone out in the snow
for only the pleasure
of walking barely protected
from the galaxies,
the flakes settling on your parka
like the dust from just-born stars,
the cold waking you
as if from long sleeping,
then you can understand
how, more often than not,
truth is found in silence,
how the natural world comes to you
if you go out to meet it,
its icy ditches filled with dead weeds,
its vacant birdhouses, and dens
full of the sleeping.
But this is the slowed down season
held fast by darkness
and if no one comes to keep you company
then keep watch over your own solitude.
In that stillness, you will learn
with your whole body
the significance of cold
and the night,
which is otherwise always eluding you.

I Was Reading a Scientific Article

Margaret Atwood

They have photographed the brain
and here is the picture, it is full of
branches as I always suspected,

each time you arrive the electricity
of seeing you is a huge
tree lumbering through my skull, the roots waving.

It is an earth, its fibres wrap
things buried, your forgotten words
are graved in my head, an intricate

red blue and pink prehensile chemistry
veined like a leaf
network, or is it a seascape
with corals and shining tentacles.

I touch you, I am created in you
somewhere as a complex
filament of light

You rest on me and my shoulder holds

your heavy unbelievable
skull, crowded with radiant
suns, a new planet, the people
submerged in you, a lost civilization
I can never excavate:

my hands trace the contours of a total
universe, its different
colours, flowers, its undiscovered
animals, violent or serene

its other air
its claws

its paradise rivers

Peace

C.K. Williams

We fight for hours, through dinner, through the endless evening, who
even knows now what about,
what could be so dire to have to suffer so for, stuck in one another’s craws
like fishbones,
the cadavers of our argument dissected, flayed, but we go on with it, to
bed, and through the night,
feigning sleep, dreaming sleep, hardly sleeping, so precisely never touch-
ing, back to back,
the blanket bridged across us for the wintry air to tunnel down, to keep
us lifting, turning,
through the angry dark that holds us in its cup of pain, the aching dark,
the weary dark,
then, toward dawn, I can’t help it, though justice won’t I know be served,
I pull her to me,
and with such accurate, graceful deftness she rolls to me that we arrive
embracing our entire lengths.