from Fireweed Poems
"Music is continuous.
It is only we who turn away."
Henry David Thoreau
(frequently quoted by John Cage)
The sound of a farmer knocking on the wood
of his kitchen table: you can hear
the fact that the truth of love
is never lost.
some more like habit, come
but the sound of knuckles on worn wood
somehow remains the same. His grandfather
made it, his father made it, and, knowing
full well his wife no longer
hears it, and that the neighbors in houses
standing in fields they once farmed
together do not care to hear it,
he makes it now alone, then stops, listening,
looking down into his morning coffee.
His father used to tell him the story
of how, when the settlers first
came here to clear and plough the land,
what enchanted the natives most
was the taste of their sugar.
As a boy, he always
wondered by what sound,
by what word, they would
have called it?
The sound of voices
Thank god for radio. The price
of soybeans and corn.
White oak. The straight, tight
grain of long, dry summers. Black
worm holes that a man of words might
ponder. All the polish of work
folding into the rich fields
of the present moment.
He touches the wood,
still hearing his grandfather's voice
preaching to his father,
"Even God's gotta have a stick with two sides."
They were talking about the government,
then. War. Freedom. Money.
Some things are always the same.
Taking the metal cup off
the cooking stove, spirits
rising with the smell of boiling
black coffee, he shakes his head
and asks out loud of himself,
"When the cup is broke
and no more use, where
does the circle go?"
He can still hear them laugh
That's how they talked.
"Sweets are always the first thing missed
and the last to be forgotten."