Poetry

The Dancing Cranes; That slant of sun; Last Words


The Dancing Cranes

 
We have seen them in the garden,
more than once, a pair facing to lift
wing to wing in the courting dance—
seen them, later, walking their colt
through the gardens, stopping
to pluck a young shoot of our kale
or later, our ripe strawberries, or,
 
later still, one crane delicately stooping
to stab a vole scurrying under the rhubarb—
toss it up and catch it, swallow it
whole, a lump vanishing down
its throat while the youngster
watched—
cranes mated for life
who know marsh nest, tilled fields,
ritual dance—sky-bugling
sky-dancers connected to family
and flock—yearly, from their winters
in Florida, the flock comes back to us.
 
It leaves an ache in my throat
to think of the hunters calling
to make them another target.
Watch how we tithe our small shoots
and roots for the pleasure
of seeing them greet each other.

 

That slant of sun

 

There is no way of telling people that they are
all walking around shining like the sun.
—Thomas Merton

 

Do the wavelengths reaching green leaves
shift as we tilt toward autumn, is it light
that tells the maples to bring out their reds,
their yellows, their anthocyanins—forget
summers’ photoreceptors, go for the gold?
 
What cues our blackbirds, our grackles,
our geese into flocking? What orients them
to the south? And the high winds they ride—
how do they read the day of leave-taking,
the light, the weather, the route?
 
In this changing weather will the jet stream
still carry them home? And will they find
new winter grounds? Is it the low light that slows
the ripening of raspberries, the marigolds’ blooms?
What slows our own steps, blinkers our vision?
 
What shimmer draws the grackles, dressed
in their blacks, toward their own green-gold
auras, all shining? And the bees, flying
towards the ultraviolet dots and dashes
of pollen pointing their way to the places
 
calling them in to the blossoms? How
transformed a landscape could we see?
Where does the light come from in each face
watching the fall world in its turning
to catch the last rays of the sun?

 

Last Words

 

Would I love it this way if it could last
—W. S. Merwin, composed from last
words of his Garden Time poems

 

Dark promises anything today—
it brings home this queen of summer,
stopping to recognize us,
time’s wing showing the way
to the beginning of meadow—
 
time seen through a window
where a child is singing—
absence, loss, all gone.
Watch the way they disappeared,
wait in daylight for the wind to still.
 
Memory again brings us the time
in the valley when home appeared.
See us in the dark, together—
or are we leaving the valley?
We planned another summer there,
 
September again—time held us in mind
breathing, laughing, beginnings gone—
is it dark yet?
Will you recognize me?
Will I mind?