You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields
toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.
How long have we been this way, you ask him.
It must be ages, the wind answers. It must be the music of the wind
turning your fingers to glass, turning the furniture of childhood
to the colors of horses, turning them away.
Your father is still crossing the acres, a light on his tongue
like a small coin from an empire that has always been ruined.
Now the dark flocks are drifting through his shoulders
with an odor of lavender, an odor of gold. Now he has turned
as though to go, but only knelt down with the heavy oars
of October on his forearms, to begin the horrible rowing.
You sit in a chair in the room. The wind lies open
on your lap like the score of a life you did not measure.
You rise. You turn back to the room and repeat what you know:
The earth is not a home. The night is not an empty bridle
in the hands of a man crossing a field with a new moon
in his old wool. We abandon the dead. We abandon them.
Before I watched you die, I watched the dying
falter, their hearts curled and purring in them
like kitfoxes asleep
beside their shadows, their eyes pawed out by the trouble
of their hunger. I was
humbling, Lord, like the taxidermist’s
apprentice. I said
yes, and amen, like the monk brushing
the barley from the vealcalf’s
withers, the heft of it
as it leans against his cilice.
Winter, I have watched the lost
lie down among their bodies, clarified
as the birdsong
they have hymned of.
I have heard the earth sing longer than the song.
Come, I said, come
after: you were the bull-elk in the moonlight
of my threshold, knocking off the mosses from its antlers
before it backed away, bewildered, into foliage.
You were thin-ribbed, were hawk-
scarred, were few.
Yes, amen, before I heard you giving up
your singing, you were something stumbling hunted
to my open door; you were thinning with the milkweed
of the river. Winter, Wintering, listen: I think of you
long gone now
through the valley, scissoring
your ancient way
through the pitch pines. Not waiting, but the great elk
in the dark door. Not ravens
where they stay, awhile, in furor,
but the lost thing backing out
among the saplings, dancing off the madness
of its antlers. Not stone, not cold
stone, but fire. The wild thing, musk-blooded, at my open
door, wakening and wakening and
in the blindness of its wild eyes,
saying Look at them, look at how they have to.
Do something with the wildness that confounds you.