Among the Husks

This hill I live on now, a century
back was a quarry.  Ninety years ago
stonemasons cut its heart out,
anchored houses at its edge.  Paul Gore
street goes there today.

Heading outward, on route nine,
I was in memory of my father.

What was to say?  Crouched in Hank
Ebelink's steaming winter
greenhouses, pulling at roots,
how would I know what my father hunted,
his northern snow, pines
and brothers of the long hunt?

What would I know of what hunted him?

The young buck, distantly
staring down your rifle
a moment from his death...
Father, progenitor, did you stalk
them after all in perfect tranquility?
Through early snow, tracking,
huddling, entire hours immobile.

These are poor words for you now.
Now you could teach me something
of the hunt and the prey.

Outside my window now is darkness.
I look down into the heart
of an old hill.  Against its silence,
the gull-cries of ambulances
wheering and wheeling in the streets.
A final trolley racketing intersections.

Here on the brink,
though the soil is thin on old rock,
the old landlord's young trees
have rooted well.  They will outlast him.

At last, father, I love you.

...A word at a time breaks and dashes
from the underbrush, dazes, stares
steadily at the muzzle, waits.  Yes.
Buck words, tree-antlered, alert
and limber, switching flies, toppling
rotten trees to sink into swampsedge.
Soft ripening doe words,
nosing their fawns come springtime,
in animal play, musing grass,
sun-fleckled speech among columbines.

Be at peace, my father.  The hunter
who has taken you says Peace,
gives you green hills for your
great animal heart, rough bark
for your soul's sprouting antlers,
still waters for your spirit's life;
for us your children, a music into eternity.


Copyright © Jim Michmerhuizen 1985