Sitting on the hill he felt young and stupid. And then sad that he had not until this afternoon found out that on very rare occasions life will offer up something as full and wonderful as anything the imagination can muster.
– Jim Harrison, Farmer
Deep in the forest there is a pond,
small, shaded by a pine so tall
its shadow crosses her surface.
The water is cold and dark and clear,
let it preserve those who lie at the bottom
invisible to us in perpetual dark.
It is our heaven, this bottomless
water that will keep us forever still;
though hands may barely touch they’ll never
wander up an arm in caress or lift a drink;
we’ll lie with the swords and bones
of our fathers on a bed of silt and pine needles.
In our night we’ll wait
for those who walk the green and turning earth,
our brothers, even the birds and deer,
who always float down to us
with alarmed and startled eyes.
~ ~ ~
From his Selected and New Poems. I have been reading Harrison’s memoir Off to the Side; the beauty with which he writes is overshadowed only by the force with which he lives his life.
This amber light floating strangely upward in the woods – nearly
dark now with a warlock hooting through the tips of trees.
If I were to be murdered here as an Enemy of the State you would
have to bury me under the woodpile for want of a shovel.
She was near the window and beyond her breasts I could see
the burdock, nettles, goldenrod in a field beyond the orchard.
We’ll have to abandon this place and live out of the car again.
You’ll nurse the baby while we’re stuck in the snow out of gas.
The ice had entered the wood. It was twenty below and the beech
easy to split. I lived in a lean-to covered with deerskins.
I have been emptied of poison and returned home dried
out with a dirty bill of health and screaming for new wine.
It is an hour before dawn and even prophets sleep
on their beds of gravel. Dreams of fish and hemlines.
The scissors move across the paper and through
the beard. It doesn’t know enough or when to stop.
The bear tires of his bicycle but he’s strapped on
with straps of silver and gold straps inlaid with scalps.
We are imperturbable as deer whose ancestors saw the last
man and passed on the sweet knowledge by shitting on graves.
Let us arrange to meet sometime in transit, we’ll all take
the same train perhaps, Cendrars’ Express or the defunct Wabash.
Her swoon was officially interminable with unconvincing
geometric convulsions, no doubt her civic theater experience.
– – –
Jim Harrison is a strange man and these are probably his strangest set of poems, yet I’m drawn to them.
The alfalfa was sweet and damp in fields where shepherds
lay once and rams strutted and Indians left signs of war.
He harnessed the horses drawing the wagon of wheat toward
the road, ground froze, an inch of sifting snow around their feet.
She forks the hay into the mow, in winter is a hired girl
in town and is always tired when she gets up for school.
Asleep between peach rows, drunk at midmorning and something
conclusive is needed, a tooth pulled, a fistfight, a girl.
Would any god come down from where and end a small war between
two walls of bone, brain veering, bucking in fatal velocity?