The time is important here—not because this
has been a long winter or because it is my first
at home since childhood—but because there is so much
else to be unsure of. We are on the brink of an invasion.
At a time like this how is it that when I left only a week ago
there was three feet of snow on the ground,
and now there is none, not even a single patch
on in the shadow of the fence-line.
And to think I paid a cousin twenty dollars
to shovel the walk. He and two of his buddies,
still smelling of an all-nighter, arrived at 7 am
to begin their work. When I left them a while later
and noticed their ungloved hands, winter made me feel
selfish and unsure. This ground seems unsure
of itself for its own reasons
and we do not gauge enough of our lives
by changes in temperature.
When I first began to write poems
I was laying claim to battle.
It started with a death that I tried to say
was unjust, not because of the actual
dying, but because of what was left.
What time of year was that?
I have still not yet learned to write of war.
I have friends who speak out—as is necessary—
with subtle and unsubtle force.
But I am from this place and a great deal
has been going wrong for some time now.
The two young Indian boys who almost drowned
last night in the fast-rising creek near school
are casualties in any case.
There have been too many just like them
and I have no way to fix these things.
A friend from Boston wrote something to me last week
about not having the intelligence
to take as subject for his poems
anything other than his own life.
For a while now I have sensed this in my own mood:
This poem was never supposed to mention
itself, other writers, or me.
But I will not regret that those boys made it home,
or that the cousins used the money at the bar.
Still, there are no lights on this street.
Still, there is so much mud outside
that we carry it indoors with us.