Peaceable Kingdom

By Henry Taylor

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A Crosstown Breeze

A drift of wind
when August wheeled
brought back to mind
an alfalfa field

where green windrows
bleached down to hay
while storm clouds rose
and rolled our way.

With lighthearted strain
in our pastoral agon
we raced the rain
with baler and wagon,

driving each other
to hold the turn
out of the weather
and into the barn.

A nostalgic pause
claims we saved it all,
but I've known the loss
of the lifelong haul;

now gray concrete
and electric light
wear on my feet
and dull my sight.

So I keep asking,
as I stand here,
my cheek still basking
in that trick of air,

would I live that life
if I had the chance,
or is it enough
to have been there once?


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After High Water

We park the car,
pick our way over washed-out stone
to the bridge, and stare
at what can be wrought in a single afternoon.

The air is wholly calm;
gnats drift unbuffeted between here where we stand
and the almost motionless surface film
above the minnows. Lift your hand:

the point it marks in the sunlight represents
the level floodwaters reached in less
than half a day. To left and right the rusty pasture fence
is bearded with muddy grass,

except where it is broken
by the passage of a tree, or most of one. Today
sun burns, flat grass unbends, and minnows betoken
the seeming return of all that was swept away.


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A Set of Hoofprints

A horse left this track as he walked.
Here a fore hoof made its print,
obscured as if by superscript
when hind came down where fore had been.
He turns toward home, extends his walk
till hind far overreaches fore
and every hoofprint is distinct.
You stand remembering how it felt
to sit those homeward-swinging strides,
to draw up by the darkening barn
and let your own feet touch the ground.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/09/peaceable-kingdom/303434/