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Hartley Field

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And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place . . .
T. S. Eliot

The wind cooled as it crossed the open pond
and drove little waves toward us,
brisk, purposeful waves
that vanished at our feet, such energy
thwarted by so little elevation.
The wind was endless, seamless,
old as the earth.
                           Insects came
to regard us with favor. I felt them alight,
felt their minute footfalls.
I was a challenge, an Everest . . .

And you, whom I have heard breathe all night,
sigh through the water of sleep
with vestigial gills . . .

A pair of dragonflies drifted past us, silent,
while higher up two bullet-shaped jets
dragged their roars behind them
on unbreakable chains. It seemed a pity
we’d given up the sky to them, but I understand so little.
Perhaps it was necessary.

All our years together—
and not just together. Surely by now
we have the same blood type, the same myopia.
Sometimes I think we’re the same sex,
the one in the middle of man and woman,
born of both as every child is.

The waves came to us, one each heartbeat,
and lay themselves at our feet.
The swelling goes down.
The fever cools.
There, where the Hartleys grew lettuce eighty years ago
bear and beaver, fox and partridge
den and nest and hunt
and are hunted. I wish I had the means
to give all the north back to itself, to let the pines
rise in the hayfield and the lilacs go wild.
But then where would we live?

I wanted that hour with you all winter—
I thought of it while I worked,
before I slept and when I woke,
a time when the tangled would straighten,
when contrition would become benediction:
the positive hour, shining like mica.
At last the wind brought it to us across the pond,
then took it up again, every last minute.

“Hartley Field” from Hartley Field. Copyright (c) 2002 by Connie Wanek. Used by permission of Holy Cow! Press
Source: Hartley Field (2002)

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This poem originally appeared in the August 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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Hartley Field

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  • Born in Madison, Wisconsin, poet Connie Wanek grew up on a farm outside Green Bay and in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She was educated at New Mexico State University.
    Wanek’s poetry collections include Bonfire (1997), winner of the New Voices Award from New Rivers Press, and Hartley Field (2002). Her image-driven poems often engage nature and natural order. Praising Hartley Field, poet David Orr observed, “Wanek is from Wisconsin, but her sensibility often seems Eastern European or Scandinavian. Like Szymborska, Wanek likes to end poems with poised yet cutting observations or intimations of dread that can turn ordinary activities into existential dilemmas.”
    Wanek’s honors include the Willow Poetry Prize, the Jane Kenyon Poetry Prize, and a Witter Bynner Fellowship at the Library of Congress. She co-edited, with Joyce Sutphen and Thom Tammaro, the anthology To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (2006).
    She lives with her...

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