Tuesday, July 08, 2014

faint stars and the silver leaves

When the weather is as hot as it has been this week, one can only long for nightfall when it gets somewhat cooler. I am fond of poems that tell a story like this one, a story that seems told out of sympathy and greatness of heart. Here in Idaho, just where we turn off the main road into the subdivision, there is an oddly-shaped remnant of pasture. Usually small groups of cattle are grazing there, going or coming, who can say? But since the Eagle Rodeo a couple of weeks ago, there has been a group of handsome bay horses. We notice that they graze together, and wherever they are in the field, they are close together, in a companionable jumble. The beauty of horses is different from the beauty of cows. Follow the rhymes and half-rhymes through this poem; never obtrusive, they add so subtly to its power and beauty.

The Cows at Night

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 farm
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 in from snow and rock, from chaos, New Directions, 1972, pages 26-27.

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