The meadow yielded thirteen bales an acre.
“Was that a record?” I asked one of the experts.
“It must have been a record. When was the last time
you manured that meadow? Eighteen-eighty-one?”
Yet it is beautiful, whether mowed or not.
After its saddest mowing, stubble bristled
sparsely, yet the stalks stood up like Christians.
Now, when the second crop is coming in,
it bends to the wind as if a hand had stroked it.
Here there’s a patch of purple-colored fescue
that glistens metallic at the heart of summer;
there, dogbane creeps in on the heels of the mowing
to hold its tiny white blossoms as a girl does,
stooping to drink, clutching beads to her breast
to keep them from getting wet in the fountain.
High to the south, where maps mark “the great ledge,':
is where my father’s ashes tumbled down,
and, ten years after them, his widow’s followed.
Low to the north, closer to the ground,
another outcrop from the field, a ledge
of pink-and-green-flecked granite, with a pinch
of silver sprinkled over its harsh surface,
speaks the word JANE for her who has become
familiar of the place but once was its mistress.
How difficult to keep her face in mind
as part of a living body! The body lives on,
sometimes remembered in my arms and fingers,
but the face that spoke to me with eyes and throat
resists replacement. Yet it will live on,
a vagueness in the grass, a ghost among trees.
I have stared out a thousand times across
the field, hoping to see what she
rested her eyes upon while she was dying,
but I can see nothing there beyond the leaves.
They were happy enough to speak to me before,
whatever it is that leaves and trees will speak of,
but how can they now so wholly have repossessed
the country that she took the time to die in?
Perhaps it’s just as well. Remembered things
should not survive by long the death of the body.
See? Every year the grass renews itself
with shoots and leaves and, ultimately, flowers.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 3 Number 9, on page 38
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