City living had lost its allure,
Diesel fumes, noise and traffic,
Had burned a hole in my stomach,
and shortened my life.
Something simple and clean, fresh country air,
Cardinals' songs and country roads, would mend my spirit.
I was in need of the perfect American Dream,
To the extent that Illinois could offer.
A wooded acreage in Henry County, among the salts of the earth,
Whose ordered fields and farms, seemed the answer.
So when the prairie was frozen,
Did I move to paradise?
In Spring some new neighbors moved into their shanties,
as summer began, Paradise smelled less like heaven than I imagined,
Good fertilizer, I was told, smells like money.
Yes, maybe, but other peoples' money, not mine.
With pastoral scenery, peace and quiet,
Mended spirit and healed stomach,
I sit in my living room, windows closed,
To keep out the fresh country air.
In this shaky world
where up and down
are definitely known
but gravitation still
poses big perplexities
we'd sometimes like
to shake off atoms
and take a guided
tour of the possible
and if such a ride
were available for
a dollar or a million
we'd buy a ticket
but since no booth
sells these tickets
we continue with
our work yet vaguely
sense this ride is
going to happen
we see clearings and
when mind and air
are perfectly quiet
and love is flowing
up and down and
all through our being
as if red lights were at
some railroad crossing
flashing to announce
an unseen movement
much grander than
Deploring my ignorance
of energy and matter, the physicist next door
gave me his cat, a smile, and moved away.
"Big Einstein," the creature's called.
The fourth dimension is better understood
living with a life form that claims the realm
of clocks and calendars as its own.
Matter and energy are still hard to grasp.
Each morning before we explore theories
of relativity and the feline factor,
Einie tutors me impatiently in basic science:
Black fur density absorbs all light and warmth.
Seven pounds plus four feet equals a time warp.
Nothing is squared; all is skewed.
The lesson wanders home, winding
circuitous orbits of shadow and shine,
skyward tail aquiver with equations
ending in another distinctive warp
its owner owes to lunar time
invested in arcane ritual.
Between his lives beyond, my lap
is a soft space station, limited, sometimes
not approved. I learn of minute increments
of days and nights slowly while waiting
for the sidewise approach of distance
breathes God's air, drinks God's water,
eats food created through photosynthesis from the sun's energy
by millions of farmers on four continents,
wears clothes imagined by designers in Europe and on both coasts
and actualized by underpaid workers around the world
who never look at the cover of Time Magazine and so
would not recognize his face,
stands in front of a mirror (itself no small feat of technology and commerce),
shaves using--what? blades? lather? small electric motors? though he himself
is equally ignorant of metallurgy, chemistry, and electrical engineering,
surveys the face he inherited from the chromosomes, dreams, and sweat
of his pioneer and immigrant ancestors,
and smiles in satisfaction, as well he should:
the self-made man.
It was awful.
Can you imagine?
There's no civility anymore.
Everything is gross.
It's what you might expect
with a family name of "Dumpty?"
And when he took that fall,
he splashed all over the street.
Well, it just made me sick.
And then, calling out the soldiers
to doctor him.
You might know, it was to no avail.
All of the horses, and all of the men,
couldn't put Humpty back together again.
My eyes and ears were toddler new when first
Rememberings grew in my head. May morning
Light against the curtain called me wake
To hear the morning canopied with birdsong,
Cascades of bubbling voices trebling dawn.
Then like a muted piper, smooth and low,
The cotton coo-hoo of the mourning dove
Came gently from some distant hidden place.
And I seemed called to seek it out, to leave
My bed and come outside to press my footprints
In the dewy grass and stop to touch
The fattened peony buds and fuzzy iris.
“Come see the worm,” teased Grandpa, with the hoe.
I backed up. “No.” And Grandma, from the house
Called, “Come to get your shoes on!” “No, I want
To find the little bird,” I said and tried
To sing its special sounds so Grandpa’d know.
He showed me once, the dove with rounded head
And color none, so plain I soon forgot.
And yet its random calls could make my ears
Attend against all louder straining throats.
And still it bids me hear in spite of sirens,
Speakers, horns, and bells, the constant strings
Of ringing things, insistent beckonings
That trouble time and teach me urgency.
Then comes the dove’s soft summons from afar
A simple mantra, intimate, intoning
Calm. From voice so small, the greatest call.
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