Tonight I hear machines at their dark work in the dark, I understand
the sound they make among the gaps between the trees
to mean: someone is building, something is being built, a man
tilts at his deadline with no moon tonight to show him how. My son
lies sleeping apostrophic in his bed, one month gone by since
I first trimmed his hair, those fine gossamer follicles falling, leaflike,
like the inflection of the one declarative command: change. I take
myself out. Not far-off, not near, the earth-grinders make
their voices heard like drag-harrows behind them. The physical world
contains an inexhaustible supply of metaphor, I tell myself
again; I tell everyone. They listen. They listen like I listen
to the mind’s interrogative, landscape’s imperatives, night’s
silent rescission. Seeing today—it was my birthday—
the steep-sloped flanks of Old Rag Mountain, as if
for the first time: like part of what that knob stands for
has been redacted, excised, reforested with that hard full head
of chinkapin and oaks like hairs. Witness-trees like weather vanes.
Hickories in their bitter greens: mockernut, shagbark, shellbark.
A mile distant, a wind whips up their crowns like thick sweet cream;
I watch a sharp-shinned hawk watch it and hatch her plan, light
off a branch like the business she means. Her fine limbs quaver
and approach. She hops, wings flick: all conveyor, no belt, or belt
of raw air. Thermals outflank the Blue Ridge, insinuate themselves
upside Old Rag’s bouldrous head. A red door opens in the sky:
low light irradiates recalcitrant spruce, high-blown birds. The noise
happens and happens. Who comes in. Who in the dark now stands alert.
—John Casteen. Art Credit Pippa Drummond.