Remember when you put on that wig
From the grab bag and then looked at yourself
In the mirror and laughed, and we laughed together?
It was a transformation, glamorous flowing tresses.
Who knows if you might not have liked to wear
That wig permanently, but of course you
Wouldn’t. Remember when you told me how
You meditated, looking at a stone until
You knew the soul of the stone? Inwardly I
Scoffed, being the backwoods pragmatic Yankee
That I was, yet I knew what you meant. I
Called it love. No magic was needed. And we
Loved each other too, not in the way of
Romance but in the way of two poets loving
A stone, and the world that the stone signified.
Remember when we had that argument over
Pee and piss in your poem about the bear?
“Bears don’t pee, they piss,” I said. But you were
Adamant. “My bears pee.” And that was that.
Then you moved away, across the continent,
And sometimes for a year I didn’t see you.
We phoned and wrote, we kept in touch. And then
You moved again, much farther away, I don’t
Know where. No word from you now at all. But
I am faithful, my dear Denise. And I still
Love the stone, and, yes, I know its soul.
Used with permission by Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org
The moon was like a full cup tonight, too heavy, and sank in the mist soon after dark, leaving for light faint stars and the silver leaves of milkweed beside the road, gleaming before my car. Yet I like driving at night in summer and in Vermont: the brown road through the mist of mountain-dark, among farms so quiet, and the roadside willows opening out where I saw the cows. Always a shock to remember them there, those great breathings close in the dark. I stopped, and took my flashlight to the pasture fence. They turned to me where they lay, sad and beautiful faces in the dark, and I counted them–forty near and far in the pasture, turning to me, sad and beautiful like girls very long ago who were innocent, and sad because they were innocent, and beautiful because they were sad. I switched off my light. But I did not want to go, not yet, nor knew what to do if I should stay, for how in that great darkness could I explain anything, anything at all. I stood by the fence. And then very gently it began to rain.
Hayden Carruth's "The Cows at Night," from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems (2006) is used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.