THE ENIGMATIC VARIATIONS vii:
ANTERIOR FORMS OF TIME
–for Lester Krough
Fuchsia moon last night, late rising.
This morning still above the horizon,
Floating in watery light like some
Exhausted martyr's life, calling to mind
The memory of someone left behind:
Forty-odd years of continental drift,
The imagination playing with itself.
The shanks of my bare legs
Stick out beneath my bath robe's hem;
No leering or snickering please.
In the basement, the well-pump sounds,
Gargles into soul-sapping weariness.
Tomorrow the well-man comes
To mend our slow and estuarial flow.
This much is true: in the immersions
Of that broken well-pump I remember
Six summers from my own life;
Your age I never knew but much older.
From May to August, driving, working
Construction for good money, for school,
For books, a bluebonnet seed for another life.
Change of class, you said, then hummed
Cab driver, drive by Mary's place.
It's true, the books will get you there,
But there is not a place at all or far from
Summer road-sides of milkweed, thistle, bee-balm,
Where you still sit waiting in the truck
Forever telling me after decades, I told you so.
I hear again the wind whacking the windshield,
The Mills Brothers, your misdirected jokes.
I see the pale and patient color of saffron
Spreading across the Iowa morning sky,
The book held again inside the perfect grasp
Of my young and glowing hands and you
Telling me again of Normandy and June.
THE ENIGMATIC VARIATIONS, x:
WHEN LOOKING IN AND LOOKING OUT
ARE BOTH TRUE
Somewhere by a natural selection
A word originates its species; white-
Crowned sparrow's head scavenging
November grass; how carnal another
Word, at once a prism of eloquence,
A gathering vanity of spreading
Magnolia buds, a private place
Of cultivation, shaggy and absurd,
Mistress to men lazy in patrician ways.
Somewhere a child hauls clay from a creek;
He makes two figures: man, woman.
The woman thinks of going away,
Of words that fumble; she burns
With phosphorus, stays entirely in herself.
The man is past sadness though his hands
Are open, lined counterweights
Of renunciation, an old peasant
In a still hour of life running out.
Somewhere someone says I'm tired;
Turn out the lights. Nothing is easier,
Nothing but waiting prayerful and modest,
Recording sentiment in the bride's
Guest book, standing idle, hands hiding
In pockets, unsure of tone, wondering why
Someone so lissome has married such a
Calculating object; remembering for a moment
The great room of a house they once drew.
Author Daniel Sundahl is Emeritus Professor in English and American Studies at Hillsdale College where he taught for thirty-three years.