Monday, September 1, 2014

Sugar in the Black Soil

We're all gardeners, descended from the first Garden.
Everything has been already named.
We might change around the numbers in the equation,
but sooner or later we come to our first English Composition class.
I don't mean to strike horror into you.
You have to get in before you can get out.
You have to analyze your experience, or the Great Books,
or whatever it is while some teacher blesses you before you actually
compose of your own free will. You discover it as you go.
Look out that window as the world grows into finer focus.
You have the pictures to describe every plant and department
in the whole world. You live in a little house with a table
and a window flung open. All the authors that ever were
are streaming through your window. We remember only a little
of the bird as it flies into the Great Speckled Unknown.

The sensitive poet, at his best, can pull a tractor out of the mud.
He is not offended by the clumps of sugar in the black soil.
He goes out into the unbroken Midwest with a serving spoon.
All directions are feasible. The earth tells him yes,
and the earth tells him no. He accepts both answers.
He scoops manure onto the white grades of untested canvas.
His studio smells like the country. He goes to the feed store,
not the art store, to get his brushes. They are more like brooms
with which he gets his whole body into the action.
Pushing fifty pounds of the dark thoughts across the palette,
he breaks a sweat. He works with his hands,
connecting implement to rig. The furrows he leaves in his wake
are deep enough to disturb the casual reader, expecting a red barn.
The reader's only choice is to give a hand with the wheelbarrow.
By noon, the fat tires start to emerge from the snow.
The white page, next to the sugar bowl, is halfway done.
The sweetness reaches into the bristles of the broom.
The ground is swept with legible handwriting, awaiting the sickle.

We farm at our tables, uncovering helpings of the sky
in our notebooks. If we choose to leave the world,
we still have our writing. This is a wine that flows in even
the most remote places. Take being out in space, for example.
All the literature still makes sense on Mars even if there is no water.
If you deprive yourself of things in order to write,
you are probably a lover. You are satisfied with the Beloved
because she is the perfect editor. She is beyond words but checks
back every once in a while to make sure you are doing O.K.
That gives you a lot of free time. That is why we writers
must be disciplined.

Sometimes we have to leave the fifty thousand word set
and stretch out into the flight of migration back home
where a kitchen is set with all the books one individual will write,
and now it is time to taste a home cooked meal prepared
by the Friend. He has not forgotten about you. He has just
been seeing what you're up to, choosing the ingredients
that make you happy, and on your birthday making such
a special meal that you will be at a loss for words.
That is good. The taste of your birthday dinner
is meant to stay with you for all eternity. We have to travel
light onto Mars or wherever the next place is we end up,
and nothing sticks with you more than a taste of that fruit
we are all striving to grow.