for Geoffrey Hill and Frank Miller
Spiders spill out of a storm struck oak
On the rim of my childhood’s forest.
Half buried mathematical sign
Of the world’s inequality.
We were walking it down to earth
When the wood gave way beneath us
And the honeycombed beetle wandered paths
Were pried open by a thousand things
Of furry mindlessness, lost hands scrambling
For their owners across the crumbling bark
Toward the drowned crown’s leaves’
Black and brown shadows. Who was the eleven
Year old boy, barely a root,
And who was the hundred ringed world widener
Downed by a bolt? Who jumped from bank to bank
The great Skunk River’s rimey surface?
Looking for a clue, we found it: a footprint
Filled with muddy rain
Through which we’d read the tread
Then swirl it with a stick and claim
Some understanding, though adulthood
Stared us in the face with what we didn’t see.
Dead tree, ghost ship of tarantulas.
If all those hands would clasp in prayer
They’d pray for what we knew at almost twelve
When the time to go home was when it got dark,
An ever shifting time, and we’d shake our sneakers
Upside down by the garage wall and bang
The soles against the gutter pipe and
Watch nameless dead things fall out:
Past the shadowed edge of half a century’s wood
I stop, and stoop in thought,
And recognize that single track, abandon
All the things I thought I’d grasp.
Climb on, boy: we met when I was old.
Don’t let me dodge the lightning till I rot.
painting by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner