Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Peace, Part II

I don't know what you call
the opposite of a land mine
but I found another today.
I was cleaning
and I found a dusty jar of kohlrabi pickles
sealed in the summer just before the war.
I've kept these pickles a long time—
there were days
I wouldn't look at them.

They're still good.
I made a lot of pickles that summer
and I ate some the other day
and they're still good. This morning,
holding the jar like an orphan baby,
I wiped it clean with a damp cloth
and set it down,

Throughout history
men seek the artifacts of finality—
walls, bombs, answers,
secret alchemical formulas.
So they miss the greatest prize
buried here in this field
where I'm living now,
the Lover's Stone
by stillness transmuting rigid anger
into heartbreak, heartbreak
into compassion, compassion
into blossoming joy and peace and good work.
Where the delight comes from
—striking me down again
like whatever you call
the opposite of lightning—
I couldn't say.

The hours spent on this struggling farm
in an outlet mall parking lot
used to fill me with dread and an incisive awareness
of everything wrong with the world—
automobile noise,
overdressed churchgoers,
tractor fumes,
condoms left on the pavement
when a pickup and a minivan part ways,
haunting patriotic music
echoing off vacant Reaganomics architecture,
the mortal trade-offs everyone seems to make
between success and happiness.

It's November.
The growing season is past.
Melody, now gone,
told me collard greens mellow
after three hard frosts.
I've lost count of my frosts now.
The leftover kale is more beautiful and more purple
than ever. The carrots grow sweeter
and I must be getting sweeter, too:
One of the selfish cats
I've been feeding for months
walked right past her breakfast
and meowed at me till I petted her.
I found some turnips out of place,
overlooked, perfectly good,
so I harvested them,
washed them like orphan babes,
and gave them to a woman
who makes me coffee and smiles at me.

Until now, I never stuck around
after the frost—never saw the field
through the eyes of a man without a plan or a project
or even a crop. The cold wind
sweeps freely over the field
and everything left in the ground
is my feast to uncover.

Forty days and forty nights
to greet the undead
and accept communion—
not stale little wafers
but heaping mounded loaves torn by hand,
deep gulps of red wine from a wooden cup.
This ghost or angel or vision,
whatever you call her,
she comes back,
sort of,
to entice you into tasting
your own life. She looks like herself
as she never quite did,
mournful, slow-moving, smiling restfully,
and she wears the scars of her humanity without shame,
and today she holds aloft today's daily bread.
Strange to eat the food of the departed,
but the yeasty aroma reminds you
of your still-living body
and its hunger
and the day's work.