With Sandhill Cranes
Out of place, like a cyclist on a winter
at dusk, two cranes bend then straighten their
stepping over rows of thick brown stalks,
a chopped corn field touched with snow.
Beside them, a flooded
ditch, iced-over; so they eat gleaned
corn, a deer mouse,
and a lost half-frozen woolly bear.
farmlands stretch for miles, but the cattle have been called in.
the cranes, dusky in this light, graze. I’m used to Currier
And Ives landscapes with stocky turkeys emerging
the woods to scratch and peck a living under
old apple trees. In these parts, meandering turkey flocks
hold up traffic on the rural highways.
But these cranes are far from the road, easy
to miss, despite being tall as the surrounding fence posts.
Svelte and large-framed, they’re graceful for all their angles and bones.
Yes, graceful, because
when I stop pedaling to be part
of the spare brushstrokes
of this oriental winter scene,
the cranes take off,
taking the whole world away with them.
With ease, their
legs bend then straighten; their wings gesture across
landscape of fields, darkening woods and outbuildings. They take off
as the sun takes light at dusk, as a brush runs out of paint.
What mountains are not
jade, in the end? The White Mountains turn
green. The Green Mountains
turn white. The air gets thin; the mind slows,
I become aware of my body as body: dead
weight the spirit must
pack and shoulder to the heights where gods
are said to live. They
live, we are told, on the tops of big
hard rocks: small comfort
till I remember rocks are couches
to gods. Halfway up,
there's a place to stop for water, rocks
worn smooth by water,
and there is sun. I recline, and warm
smooth rock cups me
for the span of a nap. I dream jade dreams
when I climb a mountain. When I'm
tired, weary, and worn-out,
every dream is a pillow.
A rock is a pillow.
O Jade, why would I wear you on my wrist or neck? Crown me
while I get my breath back, and my eyelids smooth into dreams.
Upon waking from a white dream into a green world, Jade
Mountain is ten times taller; Jade Mountain has disappeared.
The body is trying to remember what impulse drove
it to want to climb this mountain. The spirit is trying
to remember if it has ever lived anywhere else.