“This is why you hold hearings”: Five poems by Robert Knox

The Hearings

This is why you hold hearings.
Anyone who hasn’t noticed what he is yet
gets to see it,
and hear about it
every day.
He condemns himself with his own tongue
making nasty
to one he has already
sought to destroy.

First the knitting,
then the guillotine.

***

The Journal of the Winds

“Our thoughts are the epochs in our lives; all else is but as a journal of the winds that blew while we were here” — Thoreau*

The street sweeper came by this morning.
We moved the garbage curbside to give it way.
A steam roller and the heavy trucks made their appearance
and the wind blew cold,
while the machines sat and did nothing,
stewing on the pavement.

I stumbled in the night,
forgetting that a piece of the world had been removed.
The moon looked down, bright and amazed
by all it saw
and though I could not gaze long upon its face,
it seemed to know me.

I have experiments to try
and will come to them soon,
but the journal of the winds keeps turning
its pages, leafy orange and yellow this month,
and the last of the roses freeze red in the morning.

My body turned and twisted wonderfully,
my breath stayed true.
A friend spoke and was happy.
The telephone called itself.
Hearts and other organs went on healing.
Sounds proved hard to trace
and those who were absent
continued that way,
free as birds
to be as they were.

Still the winds turned the pages,
glorious in the morning, bitter in the cold,
and we struggled to read
by candle
in the dark.

*The Journal of Henry D. Thoreau (Princeton Edition Journal)

***

Dejuner en Plein Air

On the Circuit Trail at Notch View, Windsor, Mass.

This time of year, the elements whisper,
summer’s last dance,
plays the pipe for the best of times,
telling us that life is worth living
— time passing, age cornering and penning
its generational round-up —
if only to have known such days.
No need to take our clothes off
to skinny dip in blue sky, green hills,
nor intoxicate our senses by anything
but the sweet elixir of these timeless fields,
both earthly and Elysian.
No experts are required to manage these variations
on the theme of green: orchards, woodlands, meadows.
They manage nicely on their own.
(Its reckless humanity that needs a manager.)
Someone who once “owned” this place,
according to that queer human division of the spoils,
bequeathed to the future these hundreds of acres in trust,
and to such bequests I say, Amen!
We consume them now with senses
that leave everything behind
just as found, as good as new,
when later we gather our crumbs and cores
and move on.

Elsewhere forests burn to feed foreign appetites.
(If I stop eating chocolate will it save
Brazil or Indonesia?)
Here, the great body of Autumn rouses
from peaceful slumbers in the cider house,
orange at his fingertips,
yellowing at the hairline,
walks the land as the begetter of trees,
dispenser of seeds, mulcher of forest floors,
casting acorns, fruity pips and gymnosperms
to the provocations of the winds.

Septembrish rays of a suavely declining sun
send three tiny yellow flibber-me-gibbit butterflies for entertainment,
spiraling a troika of balletic configurations.
Hawks scan the scene
from the towers of heaven,
Olympian in their regard,
as the observations of the winged divinities are said to be.

No one harvests here any longer.
We embrace this place uniquely,
almost nakedly to ourselves.
The long-distance runner and the dutiful dog-walker
disappear amid the trees,
the tiny orbs of the forgotten orchard
are too shy for the press.

Where Autumn catnaps
in timeless evolutions,
we set our table in the grass.

***

Old Wood Road: Travel Notes

   (At Pleasant Valley Wildlife sanctuary, Lenox, Mass.)

The joy! retracing here, in this storied playground
of our former selves,
this buoyant morning, too warm for his happy seasonal spot
on the fugitive calendar of always disappearing time,

But warm also to my heart,
remembering, with You, those travels with children
and the cares of middle life,
the circuit our feet well knew through a place
that keeps its upland to one hand
and its wetland to the other.
Trees where beaver cut their teeth
trails on which we cut our parenting chops,
working up, over years, to the Fire Tower…
as they, wrapped in the wizard’s cloak of youth,
ascended to that highest of challenges,
and we stepped back happily
to some middling rank
cheering from a distance

No fiery arias this early day, the first of autumn,
in the mixed hardwoods and pines
that sink their feet in this old brown land,
topped with mossy haze,
competing with the austere New England granite
at the heart of all,
like the rock on which we build our hope
of everything, this life…

We are the ghosts in the machinery of time,
the gear shafts in the generational shift
Our bones nourish the legends on which
the living feed
Our homes are the playthings of invisible giants,
wielders of waves that crash and take the heart from us…
the ebb that our own hours swim away
as we dog-paddle between the breakers,
growing strength invisible to fortify our souls for the sail beyond

One day we launch our irreducible parts
on a dream-search for our ancestors
One day our elements are their elements,
and their bones are ours
One day we climb once more
those mountains of our early years
and live on the scraps of trailing time
released by the eagle wings of flight

***

Elsewhere, in Autumn

i. Stockbridge

Leaves mass around the chairs
on the deck of the good ship TenthMonth
like rain filling an old canoe, a vessel.

Our lives are a vessel filling up with leaves
and light,
and shadow.

In the distance, noise and the leafy sea

ii. Aspinwall

Only the portrait remains of the grand hotel
situated up high on a once-cleared site
in a once-desired location
for those leaving urban addresses for fresh air,
rural outlooks, idle days.
People change, extending their sense of place
with the help of little distance-conquering
devices.

The trees vote for change as well
and summon their ally, fire,
to clear the ground once more
for a new way of life.

iii. Elsewhere

In Lebanon
the olive trees sport leaves of silver
and old men shake the pines.

***

Robert Knox is a poet, fiction writer, and the author of a novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, titled “Suosso’s Lane.” As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual.com, his poems appear regularly there. They have also appeared in Off The Coast, New Verse News, Califragile, and other journals. His chapbook “Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty,” published in 2017, was nominated for a Massachusetts Best Book award.


Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review:

In Pictures: When poets asserted their freedom of expression: Part 2

“And you will know me by my very tips”: Four poems by Amy Louise Wyatt

“You must be proud of the scars”: Four poems by Cat Dixon


 

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