Right under their noses, the green Of the field is paling away Because of something fallen from the sky. They see this, and put down Their long heads deeper in grass That only just escapes reflecting them As the dream of a millpond would. The color green flees over the grass Like an insect, following the red sun over The next hill. The grass is white. There is no cloud so dark and white at once; There is no pool at dawn that deepens Their faces and thirsts as this does. Now they are feeding on solid Cloud, and, one by one, With nails as silent as stars among the wood Hewed down years ago and now rotten, The stalls are put up around them. Now if they lean, they come On wood on any side. Not touching it, they sleep. No beast ever lived who understood What happened among the sun's fields, Or cared why the color of grass Fled over the hill while he stumbled, Led by the halter to sleep On his four taxed, worthy legs. Each thinks he awakens where The sun is black on the rooftop, That the green is dancing in the next pasture, And that the way to sleep In a cloud, or in a risen lake, Is to walk as though he were still in the drained field standing, head down, To pretend to sleep when led, And thus to go under the ancient white Of the meadow, as green goes And whiteness comes up through his face Holding stars and rotten rafters, Quiet, fragrant, and relieved.
James Dickey - 1923-1997
Hunting Civil War Relics at Nimblewill Creek
As he moves the mine detector A few inches over the ground, Making it vitally float Among the ferns and weeds, I come into this war Slowly, with my one brother, Watching his face grow deep Between the earphones, For I can tell If we enter the buried battle Of Nimblewill Only by his expression. Softly he wanders, parting The grass with a dreaming hand. No dead cry yet takes root In his clapped ears Or can be seen in his smile. But underfoot I feel The dead regroup, The burst metals all in place, The battle lines be drawn Anew to include us In Nimblewill, And I carry the shovel and pick More as if they were Bright weapons that I bore. A bird's cry breaks In two, and into three parts. We cross the creek; the cry Shifts into another, Nearer, bird, and is Like the shout of a shadow— Lived-with, appallingly close— Or the soul, pronouncing "Nimblewill": Three tones; your being changes. We climb the bank; A faint light glows On my brother's mouth. I listen, as two birds fight For a single voice, but he Must be hearing the grave, In pieces, all singing To his clamped head, For he smiles as if He rose from the dead within Green Nimblewill And stood in his grandson's shape. No shot from the buried war Shall kill me now, For the dead have waited here A hundred years to create Only the look on the face Of my one brother, Who stands among them, offering A metal dish Afloat in the trembling weeds, With a long-buried light on his lips At Nimblewill And the dead outsinging two birds. I choke the handle Of the pick, and fall to my knees To dig wherever he points, To bring up mess tin or bullet, To go underground Still singing, myself, Without a sound, Like a man who renounces war, Or one who shall lift up the past, Not breathing "Father," At Nimblewill, But saying, "Fathers! Fathers!"