Mennonite Poetry Home | Larry Nightingale




In the weeds, memory's
wandering a small-town maze—old wiggledy lanes.
It's late summer. It's Cemetery Avenue. They're barrel-burning
in a patch-work of old back-yard gardens,
feeding time's clear amber fire. Elongated
flames are leaping up choking down prunings and grasses
—green armfuls. Raggedy, limp, and morning-dewy,
every leaf-shaped heart, every stalk and blade's weedy wonder.
Transforming in the profound furnace,
a great blueprint's redrawn.
Barreled green and substantial-billowing out amber-white,
Eden's green work—elementally altered,
—abstracted—new matter
—in a low rolling cloud over the shining orchard, and soon
but curling wisps out through the fields
—then clear haze in the far stands of corn.
And here's this pallid mound of powder—and white flakes of ash
on the good neighbour gravedigger's shovel and arm.

(Dear, isn't this where you came in, bounding
into my kitchen-cabana, sprigs of dill in loose braids,
you fresh from visiting round old Martha and Henry's
garden barrel next door,
straightway showing me a savoury way to fry up potatoes?)

And is this not how presence and experience feed and transform?
And how then memory abstracts? Nourishes? And flourishes?
Barrel-burning—a great blueprint redrawn
—living's green work to new matter.
Yes, we've some ashes up our sleeves.
And we're white smoke in time's orchard.
And in the garden furnace, in clear living memory,
we are this flame.

© Larry Nightingale




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