[This is the ninth part of a yearlong poem about moving from the city to the country. Inspired by ancient and medieval calendar poems, it appears here as I write it, in monthly installments. First read the prologue and then September, October, November, December, January, February, and March. To read later entries in this series after they’re posted, click the “Beallsville Calendar” subject tag.]
THE BEALLSVILLE CALENDAR
When derelicts pelt us with petulant snow
That scourges the lampposts and scatters in winds
So willfully lawless that the windows rattle
And doors fly open in the upper rooms,
Then the eight month mends an ancient promise
And winter slinks off with the whiff of decay.
From the slopeside pens where alpacas mumble
To the lopsided tear-downs that loom too close
To the market-bound road, we reel from the wallop
Of dung flung over the face of the earth.
No wonder by then that the wind itself retches
When the White Skunk pokes through the sky at dusk;
She rises in rows of the rankest stars
That skirt the horizon and roots through the heavens
Assured of her freedom, a shadowless nomad
Aroused by the newness of noisome rewards.
Yet others here say that they see in her outline
Not starlight expectant, but the pallid exhaust
Of a hearse making ready for hearts in decline.
In the attic, fine ears heed the echo of wheels.
The bats, bored of fidgeting, brush past the fringes
Of rust-crumpled vents and go veering through treetops,
Where finches run screeching for fear of the brewing
Misrule in the twilight, the ten-minute limbo
When the dubious comforts of color forsake them
And everything winged is one in dismay.
We sing of this season as sodden with green,
Writhing and heaving and rampant, a surge
Of eternity spewed in a spasm of dust―
But the ripe-eyed flies and the flowering combs
That make us yawn strew yellow everywhere.
After frost and flurries, fields of wheat grass
Turn ocher from shock, like ancient maps
Unfolded and crumbling on a cloister wall.
By the sides of driveways, forsythia snap
Into splayed glory, like the golden spikes
On synth-happy boys when the sequencer rises
Through arches of limelight, and only their tribe
Wants to dance through the aisles to the opening band.
Clusters of yellowcress cling to the fringes
And pop from the meadows on microphone stems.
Packs of dandelions dot the crabgrass
In overblown clearings, and oceans of buttercups
Bubble through pastures and pass through the hooves
Of oblivious mares. An abundance of courage
Is waiting to ripen and rip from the wood,
But the land is as guarded as lines on the road.
Then things that fly throw flashes of red
And pink in the palace of purposeful cardinals.
He whistles, bristles, and brings her twigs
As she plaits their nest among purple blooms
And wadded mulch in a woody azalea.
Our feeders blaze with the fiery wicks
Of crests and crowns and craning necks
Of brazen woodpeckers, broad-winged and rapt
By grubworms that rustle in rain-sopping bark;
And the breast of a grosbeak gorging on seeds
In a thrill of abundance; and the throat of a hummingbird
That hangs in the firmament, heady with nectar,
Then turns, with a glint like a twinkling inlet
Compressed to a flash at the final sigh
Of a spent summer day.
Then the dark splays its feathers.
Like drops from a storm cloud, a duo of bluebirds
Splash through our forest, and find it worthy.
We raise up a home at the height they demand
Graced with eastern exposure and platters of worms.
Still they loiter, and leave, then look sidelong, and hover,
Insultingly cautious, as creatures must be
That summer in holes. Yet they sense the encroachment
Of skittering claws; then they claim every right
To the trunk, all its bark, and the brambles below:
As nimble fingers work fringe on a loom,
They drop and cut, across and returning,
Entwining the beast in a tangle of wills
Till its haunches blister and their beaks transfix it
From ear-tip to tail, shearing tatters of gray.
When the shuttling blur of blue comes to rest,
Pick up the feather you found in the grass;
Let slanted sunlight slip through the down
And between the barbs, let bouncing motes
Ricochet, scatter, and race through your thumbs.
Twirl the feather; it fades in the day
Into nothing but air in your open hand.
Then that nothing explodes, knocking you asswards
Through laughing creation. Lambs in pastures
Wobble and pop as empyrean bleats
That blast off their fleece leave them bald in the mud.
Cowbirds scatter when calves look amazed
At the force they unfurl when they fart in a barn.
In musty lofts, tumescent wretches
Glutted with colors they gulped down for months
Pull up their paunches and part their cheeks
With a clap: and they cough up a crackle of green
That scorches the grove, a green that burns
Through electrified branches, a blinding jolt
For restarting the world. This wheeling and bobbing
Is not for us, but is ours to imagine
Through plant-spattered glasses, a prism upended
That sucks every color through coiling green vines
For the shuddering out in one urgent bright come.