More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.

Also by Stanley Plumly:
John 6:17 (2001)
Strays (2000)
Piano (1999)
Naps (1998)
The Marriage in the Trees (1996)
Will Work for Food (1993)
In Answer to Amy's Question What's a Pickerel (1990)
Promising the Air (1982)
The Atlantic Monthly | June 1987

by Stanley Plumly
    How many names. Some trouble
or other would take me outside
  up the town's soft hill, into the country,
    on the road between them.
  The haw, the interlocking bramble, the thorn,
head-high, higher, a corridor, black windows.
   And everywhere the smell of sanicle
     and tansy, the taste
   of the judas elder, and somewhere
the weaver thrush that here they call mistle,
  as in evergreen, because of the berries
     I'd walk in the evening,
  into the sun, the blue air almost cold,
wind like traffic, the paper flowering of the ox-eye
   and the campion still white,
     still lit, like spring.
   I'd walk until my mind cleared,
with the clarity of morning, the dew transparent
  to the green, even here, in another
     country, in the dark,
  the hedgework building and weaving
and building under both great wings of the night.
   I'd have walked to the top of the next
     hill, and the next, the stars
   like town lights, coming on,
the next town whether Ash Mill or Rose Ash.
  Then sometimes a car, sometimes a bird, a magpie,
     gliding. This is voicelessness,
  the still breath easing.
I think, for a moment, I wanted to die,
   and that somehow the tangle
     and bramble, the branch and flowering of the hedge
   would take me in, torn, rendered down
to the apple or the red wound or the balm,
  the green man, leaf and shred.
     I think I wanted the richness, the thickness,
  the whole dumb life gone to seed,
and the work to follow, the hedger with his tools,
   ethering and cutting, wood and mind.
     And later, in this life,
   to come back as a pail made of elm
or broom straw of broom or the heartwood of the yew
  for the bow, oak for the plow—
     the bowl on the wild cherry of the table for the boy
  who sits there, having come from the field
with his family, half hungry, half cold,
   one more day of the harvest accounted,
     yellowing, winnowing,
   the boy lost in the thought
of the turning of the year and the dead father.

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Copyright © 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; June 1987; Hedgerows; Volume 259, No. 6; 46-47.