Year after year the tread of the tractor wheel
rumbles over same patch of ground,
imprinting in the dead vegetation
the same flat chevrons, just ahead of the discs
that that turn it all again to earth and worm,
and, after ordering the components,
convert them to the sap and flesh of spring.

Some years the land lies fallow for the hay
to be taken twice if the rain is right.
In the winter of such a year the haloed moon
throws deep shadow across a tall cedar
down the ravine straight towards the pole star,
rippling over the withered corpses
of blackberry and honeysuckle there
beyond the jurisdiction of the plough.

Next day in the field just before the snow
the remains of grasses, almost purple,
pick out the orange stubble of the broomstraw,
and the ever-optimistic wild onions
form a haze of teal among the gold of flattened stems.
They all combine to fling down a quilted grid
over the knees and ankles of the entire ridge.

And so this intricate colored inlay
dogs the footpath that leads to the muddy track
and the gravel that empties out onto the county road,
following the fencerows all the way to town,
where the street lights flip by, passing the brick school
from the thirties behind a grove of bare maples,
a darkened classroom, and a blackboard,
where, year after year, a history teacher
writes and erases the same three words.

After the snow, when the thaw begins, stalks and husks
reappear cross-hatched against a whitened base,
and a line of dark melt picks out the old path
that once ran from the spring to the first house on the ridge,
circling the site of the foundation
whose absent stones were hauled off long ago
to build the chimneys at the main house in the grove.
After the fire in sixty-five they collapsed
between the ancient oaks which stand there yet,
rusty lower leaves still clinging tenaciously
over luminous patterns in the snow.

February 12, 2002

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