_ _ Where wind and water have worked the mortar loose
_ _ a gillyflower grows out from the wall,
_ _ white-petalled sun of a barnyard solar system:
_ _ spider-comets arcing beneath the crossties,
_ _ midges filtering an azure sky,
a roof, like heaven’s dome, all set to fall.
_ _ The nervous clouds give away the air.
_ _ The birds decline as if in gratitude.
_ _ What holds the upright tree against the wind?
_ _ Easy skate down the sidewalk of the modern mind,
_ _ all contradictions melt, the old kinds
of lovers become unisex, and the queen, nude.
_ _ Ox tongue, cowslip, purslane—Latin weeds
_ _ make salads of Old English words. What stays?
_ _ The earth rumbles and rotates all night long
_ _ beneath the animals in the country stars.
_ _ The great wind that sweeps the universe
combles the shards of bare rural days.
F. D. Reeve, poet and novelist, most recently published The Moon and Other Failures (1999, Michigan State University Press). This April his chamber oratorio The Urban Stampede, with music by Andrew Gant, will have its world premiere at London’s Barbican; next year it will be released in book form. (updated 2000)