Vol. 21 No. 16 · 19 August 1999

March, Lewisboro

Robin Robertson: for Shelby White and Leon Levy

587 words

The estate at dawn hangs
like smoke; the forest

drawn in grainy bands
of smeared, cross-hatched,

illegible trees: a botched
photocopy of itself.

Swamp maple, sugar maple,
red and white oak; first light lifts

the pale yellow flare
of a beech tree’s papery leaves.

Where are you going?
What on earth’s the time?

A salting of snow, blown
across the white table of the lake:

thrown leaves scrape and scratch
the hard new surface,

to be fluked away,
in another gust, like cards.

What life there is is felt and phantom:
limbs lost under the locking ice,

glimpsed, half-heard beginnings;
the vestiges, and signs.

Turn off the light! Please,
I’m trying to get some sleep.

The oiled rook strides
into the wind’s current,

ransacks some twigs, then
bundles herself into the air;

ducks, flummoxed, slither
and skite on the ice.

Run me a bath when you get back,
I’m freezing here.

The love-blind swan climbs out,
head crooked, neck folded flat,

to drag-walk and
swagger after the Canada goose.

His mate nests on the island,
will watch all this for months.

What’s wrong with you
that you can never sleep?

In the sky, five crows
are bringing down a hawk –

their cries are lost
and he is lost,

among the pines, far out
over the reservoir.

The frost’s acoustic
futile against such silence:

a dog’s bark, like a gun,
just ricochets.

And if you’re going to the store
you better get me my magazine.

Stations of the necessary dead:
the drenched mop of rabbit,

its eyes (which would have dimmed
like the drying of ink) not present;

the crow’s umbrella spokes
abandoned in a pool of stress.

The soil’s peristalsis
gives up baseballs, glass bottles,

its usual spoil of stone
eased to the surface

only to be erased again
by another fall;

the slub in the immaculate lawn
is the missing roe deer,

her warm wounds hung
in their sheaths of snow.

Why don’t you come back to bed?
You can walk any time.

Wind breathes life into leaves
till the trees are speaking,

and under a sudden, exorbitant
flush of light,

a spruce stands
thickly green and lucent

over tiny arrows in the snow
pointing, unmistakably, to the junco

and the chickadee, flickers,
grosbeaks, a white-winged crossbill,

the feeder is ribboned with goldfinches,
sapsuckers: a maypole of birds.

Squirrels bicker underneath
in the spill of millet.

Do what you want.
You always do anyway.

On the slopes, daffodils begin to show
the green of their bills;

flower varieties, painted on sticks,
people the hollows:

Manon Lescaut is here,
and Jules Verne,

Rip Van Winkle bedded down
with Salome and Rosy Splendour;

Burning Heart, Martinette,
Gigantic Star.

And check the mail!
I’m expecting a letter.

Behind the house, stone sphinxes
and a line of statues, trussed up,

black-bagged for the frost:
like hostages

or the already cold and
unnegotiable dead.

Have you gone already?
I was talking to you.

White-tails have leapt an eight-foot fence
to crop the rhododendrons;

one by one
they raise their heads to stare

– stage-struck – then jink away,
amazed, back

into their element,
which is breath.

The sun has cleared the trees
but gives out

nothing now but glare.
All the colours are too bright:

the chemical red of a cardinal;
the forsythia’s astringent

yellow gold; stars of glass
on the drive; all these radiant

cars and houses;
the speeding road.

My grey notebook.
This glossy magazine and mail.

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