Walking Upon Waking
The doctrine of this world is decay.
On its ephemeral face the toothless corncob, the rot
of log, the knuckled luster of plane trees
groping leprously at gauze above the wrung mallard
neck of leaves and the downy brown sounds of geese fleeing
and the mango violet molderingness of rooster russeting
pierced through with black-metallic crow-pocked caw-caw
scripting punctuation, an airborne caveat:
All is autumnal.
Cows muzzle-udder the green, their liquid-eyed knowing
their massive dappled backs like torn pieces of the world map
while the bald farmer rigs a heifer in the blueness of his boots,
his red collared shirt, his olive sweater, his thin wisp of graying breath
and the grayness of an old ochre-eyed cat on the crumbling gray
wall with yellow lichen beneath a pewter sky
soundproofed with cotton batting
voices like old oboes pulse the corpuscles through
tissues of watery landscape gravitied in place
lapsing waning sentencing:
This daying-dying earth.
Ceremonial this doctrine of decay.
Solemn, ineludible, effulgent musicing and
The grandiloquent silence of this brief stroll through a pasture.
Last week I took a long early morning walk in the hilly vineyards around our village. I set out with no goal except to keep moving, but quickly submitted to two guiding ideas: to see things afresh and to find a poem. Not ten minutes into the walk, I sensed that poem already forming, so when I returned home with flushed cheeks, sweat and frost marking my hairline, limbs still tingling and fingers swollen from the pooling of fluids, I came right to my laptop and pecked out all the images and connections that had come to me in those two hours and in a steady stream.
(Memo to self: take a scrap of paper and a small pencil everywhere.)
This photo of our Luc was taken with nothing more than an iPhone in our back yard during leaf-raking season. He looks like an imperious, emerging God to me. This particular picture shown broadly though softly across my imagination as I took in my surroundings and walked and walked.
Thanksgiving was that same week. My mind was tuned, appropriately, to gratitude. But it was also tuned, appropriately, to death. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter do that to me. To process this confluence of feelings, I sat down this weekend and read favorite passages from three works either concretely or metaphorically about pilgrims: Plymouth Plantation from Governor William Bradford; The Pilgrim’s Regress from C.S. Lewis; and A Pilgrim At Tinker Creek from Annie Dillard.
It was Dillard’s scrupulous vision that truly seized me, maybe as never before, and probably because I’d just written this poem. The genius of her analysis of death and decay is worth a slow, meditative read. So if you’ll please come back tomorrow and give yourself time to read thankfully and thinkfully, I’ll share passages from Dillard and a few more photos. They’re taken not with some cutsie iPhone but with a serious, multi-lensed air craft carrier of an apparatus, and shot not by just anyone, but by a professional photographer friend with a keen eye.