The Clearing of the Land: An Epitaph
The trees went up the hill And over it. Then the dry grasses of the pasture were Only a kind of blonde light Settling everywhere And framing the randomly strewn Outcropping of gray stone That anchored them to soil. Who were they? One in the picture, & one not, & both Scotch-Irish drifters, With nothing in common but a perfect contempt for a past; Ancestors of stumps & fallen trees & . . . . One sits on a sorrel mare, Idly tossing small stones at the rump of a steer That goes on grazing at tough rosettes of pasture grass & switching its tail In what is not yet irritation. What I like, what I Have always liked, is the way he tosses each small Stone without thinking, without A thought for anything, not aiming at all, The easy, arcing forearm nonchalance Like someone fly casting, For this is what He wanted: To be among the stones, the grasses, Savoring a stony self That reminded him of no one else, And on land where that poacher, Law, Had not yet stolen through his fences, The horse beneath him tensing Its withers lightly to keep The summer flies away, And the woman in the flower-print dress hemmed With stains A half mile off Is the authoress of no more than smoke rising, Her sole diary & only publication, From a distant chimney. They have perhaps a year or two Left of this Before history begins to edit them into Something without smoke or flies, something Beyond all recognition.
From The Widening Spell of the Leaves by Larry Levis, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 1991 by the estate of Larry Levis. Reproduced by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.
Widening Spell of the Leaves by Larry Levis. Price: $19.95 (cloth), $10.95 (paper). ISBN# 0-8229-3675-5 (cloth), 0-8229-5454-0 (paper).
Larry Patrick Levis, born in California in 1946, was the author of several collections of poetry and received numerous honors and awards, including the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 1991-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/clearing-land-epitaph