Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Close Encounter with an Old Field

State Botanical Garden
Athens, Georgia

Do you ever wonder what you know?
Did Moses ever think to go
back to bush to watch for fire
and hear the holy words again?

For me it was only an old field.
I have been back more than once,
perplexed at how ordinary in the light
of late afternoon, or morning,
or the glare of noon. It’s gone.
Whatever was is not now. It seems
a shame, the un-tame rush replaced
by shrug and stolen glance at time,
the slow ride home for reheated leftovers
to sustain my aging. It was fall

     when I went wandering
blazed paths through pungent hush
of hickory, beech, and white oak stands
to forest edge at right-of-way,
cut straight across the curve of hills
where I stood blinking back the light.

     By the sun-splashed shores
     of an old field grown wild
     breaking over asphalt slabs
     which once went somewhere
     beyond the post hole fence
     that vainly holds back green
     swells of sumac and thistle
     tangled in turbulence
     sparkling in the silent roar
            of a thin place
            onto an emerald sea
     in the presence of which
     I would remove my shoes
     wash my soul in sunlight
     and float the timeless warmth
            to a new heaven
            and a new earth.

But that was all, and over soon,
just slant of light and insect drone,
no still small voice that could be heard
above the buzz and background trill,
so was it somehow up to me
to say aloud what hangs in air?

     All flesh is grass, its beauty as
          the flower of the field

that dies with fall – been said by better
than one who wanted just right then
no more than now and this sweet earth
of distant laughter, lovers strolling,
stoic mother gently holding sleek
cell phone and squirming child. Right
there beneath the freshening breeze
a shadow passed inside of me:

     You hear your heart
          not that of mine.

And in the voiceless hush I heard
a hymn of weeds set in my mind:

     Take the sun and set your roots, 
          soften earth and heal the scars. 

Who’s to say where words come from,
and now I wonder what to know.
For several seasons I’ve returned
with notebook, pen, and open mind.
Perhaps I'll catch their song again
          and some day discern
what hides in the silence inside.

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