The northern lights. I wouldn’t have noticed them
if the deer hadn’t told me
a doe her coat of pearls her glowing hoofs
proud and inquisitive
eager for my appraisal
and I went out into the night with electrical steps
but with my head held also proud
to share the animal’s fear
and see what I had seen before
a sky flaring and spectral
greenish waves and ribbons
and the snow under strange light tossing in the pasture
like a storming ocean caught
by a flaring beacon.
The deer stands away from me not far
there among bare black apple trees
a presence I no longer see.
We are proud to be afraid
proud to share
the silent magnetic storm that destroys the stars
and flickers around our heads
like the saints’ cold spiritual agonies
I remember but without the sense other light-storms
cold memories discursive and philosophical
in my mind’s burden
and the deer remembers nothing.
We move our feet crunching bitter snow while the storm
crashes like god-wars down the east
we shake the sparks from our eyes
we quiver inside our shocked fur
we search for each other
in the apple thicket—
a glimpse, an acknowledgment
it is enough and never enough—
we toss our heads and say good night
moving away on bitter bitter snow.
Hayden Carruth, “I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991
(Copper Canyon Press, 1992)