Wednesday, December 23, 2015

An Olde thing with Thoreau references

Seems I only ever post poems on Xtide.  Kids left today to stay with their grandparents in Illinois.  For me now it is the dark time.  The belly of the year. 

The last stanza of this thing (written 12 years ago) sums it up nicely.

Life in the Woods

I woke up out of a dream this morning.
I had been in a terminus of some sort;
there were carriages and horses
all manner of people, luggage,
and a countrywoman trying to get to Truro.
I knew, smugly almost, that she couldn't get there
from here and I felt pity for her
as I walked away

into this morning.
The light grey even though I had overslept and it was late,
clouds smoke dirty in the sky
and tree trunks black as soot.
I stood at the only window, feet already cold on the wood floor
already dusty from the ash that blows
out of the fireplace as wind breathes back down the chimney overnight.

I thought of how free I was.
I owned nothing.
I lived in the woods by a pond; I farmed nothing.
I had time. My time.
I was not a machine.
I felt a drop of cold water collect at the end of my nose—
(Where does it come from, that cold water?
Not mucus, not illness, just the coldness
of my nose's own persistent distillate).
I wiped with the back of first my right hand and then,
because the nose was still not dry, my left.

It was late already.  Past 7.
The fire needed to be lit.
I needed to find wood. (I had been too busy writing yesterday,
pausing only occasionally to rub my feet, cold in their socks, against my shins, marginally warmer in their trousers.)
I needed to put on something warmer than baggy flannel pyjamas.
I needed to pee.

Instead I went to my desk,
picked up the notes from yesterday:
"I Do Not Propose to Write an Ode to Dejection" I had written--
big capital letters and a strongly penned hand--
"But to Brag as Lustily as Chanticleer in the Morning."

There were bread crumbs on my desk: irritating.
And dust too.
That damn fire.  I can't keep it going; I can't keep it from blowing
its grey dust over everything.
If I had a mirror I would probably see ash in my hair too.

I put a hand to my head, checking:
the hair, greasy,
folds out to the left
like a crazy feather.

Today I would write about desperation.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation"
I had concluded yesterday.
And this morning,
once I had:
found wood,
lit the fire,
eaten some leftover bread,
drunk one glass of water,
cleaned ash and crumbs off my desk,
and mixed ink

I would write about the desperation of men who lived with attachments
and obligations and jobs that forced them into routines and dulled their brains
and made them like the machines they cajoled all day before they went home to warm meals and soft wives and mewling children with ear infections in the night.

I hunch awkward over my desk,
yesterday's writing in my already cold left hand,
my back stiff and threatening to twinge.
The fly of my pyjamas, I notice, looking down,
is misbuttoned; it gapes. 

Aslant, forgotten, in a left-hand corner,
slightly smeared, I had penned

"I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle dove--"

The woods are dampened.
As I stand, silence expands,
dripping from wet leaves,
aching on emptily.

Is it easier to lose than to be lost?
I wonder--
Easier to choose the crust in the woods
than to be forced?

In pencil in the margin underneath the askant words, I add
"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.
It is not so bad as you are."

I go back to bed,
double myself under the scratchy grey blanket,
both palms pressed between my thighs
for warmth.
Staring at the rough board wall--
almost like sleep--
I know I will not write about this empty time;
I cannot even think about it.

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