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In a dogwood winter of grief he always
turned from fresh graves into another country.
Subtraction of lives from the land
altered fields, changed weather, shortened
seasons, made him---no longer a face reflected
in the cool springs of their eyes---
a sudden stranger to himself.

He turned always knowing their lives had bounded
the country he had known---the rounds and routines
of their days, little seasons, familiar weathers,
certain as rosebuds, fall apples or first frost,
their rooted lives great trees, his summer shade,
their stories on the porch at night: rain on the roof.

Like lines in the palms of their hands, paths
they made from house to barn to field got lost
in weeds and never came home. Fields and buildings
turned their backs on one another. A hill
eroded down to white limestone: flesh fallen from bones.

He always turned away with a heart fluttering
like a sparrow beating its wings at a window inside
the emptied house. Beyond a baffling hard
transparency: cedars, fenced fields, light, air,
country he came from.

from The Mountains Have Come Closer, 1980©

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