A Winter Field
HAY-RAKE, CROWS AND A DREAM
I seem to be napping more this winter, the sweet surrender, giving into the impulse to close my heavy eyes…only for a second, then clap, clap, clap… as somebody appoints themselves as the guardian of my private slumber. And the dreams, the dreams have been coming fast and furious, a torrent; fantastic dreams, of places that are falling down and places that seem so similar but distorted, a dystopian world, the longing to correct some wrong, or simply to find peace, in the frenzy of searching and never finding in the watches of the night. So in the height of mid-winter nocturnal whiteness, a poem or two, inspired by an old newspaper clipping from 1982. “Peaceful Setting. Tranquility abounds in this field off Lowell Road in Windham, N.H. The unused hay-rake and barn in the background seem to be waiting for warmer days and busier times.”
Conceit And The Hay Rake: A Rural Patriarchy.
John Kinsella, “The Silo”
The hand can but suggest, there’s no touching
the subject—conceit and the hay rake have so much
in common when nothing’s left to the imagination:
in the absence of confession, the camera aside,
depth of field obscuring the intentions, details
catch in the fangs of the hay rake, old and fractious,
trapped in its rusted skin and chipped nail polish.
Carpe Diem it seems to say sarcastically, Carpe Diem.
Treading carefully, you continue to prompt: consider
the light, it may be in your eye but I need it over
my shoulder; consider your beauty, wheels that are
solar systems, a solidity that defies the scrap yard.
So ready! But what is this you’re saying? Discordia
Concors? Okay, don’t smile, but consider anyway.
A Dream Within a Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
This much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand–
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep–while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
This poem is for my wife, who always sees her morning “murder” of crows as a welcome sight. Just for reference, a flock of crows is known as a “murder” of crows.
“This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a murther of crowes. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre ‘murder,’ though the “th” sound had begun to be replaced with a d around 1300 C.E. There are several theories as to how this particular term came about, but all of them have to do with the supposed behavior of crows. For instance, crows are scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead. Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the “defendant” crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it. There are legends outside of the Germanic culture that relate to crows being judges over people as well, and how their appearance is an omen of death.”
Crows in Winter
By Vivian Smith
“An Island South”
They’ve come at last these wild crows,
The snow is heaped both fresh and hard,
To sit upon the silent tree,
That drew the wind into the yard.
Magic birds from long ago,
why have you come to visit me,
wearing still your gallows clothes?
Once you knew the hangman’s tree.
But know; I see you merely stare
Alone, ahead. There is no sun.
The sky is grey and without shape;
So was the world when just begun,
and from the stones another bird
Flaps to the tree and shakes, ignored,
His shabby, cracked , and tired wings;
He’s angry, full of spite and bored;
And through the winter calm there runs
His shallow, broken, strident cry.
Heraldic birds and birds of dreams,
Strips of rock and storm-filled sky,
and they stare and crouch, indifferent;
their eyes are deadened with distrust.
The new snow falls and spirals down
Gently falling—where it must.