Robert Gregory

 

 

 

SOURWOOD MOUNTAIN WAS ONE

 

In that skinny thin light before the sun
begins to show its red above the trees still black
and raggedy, just about the time when a bird
or two or three together will rush in silence
through the open space above the lawns
for their own mysterious reasons.  Rush through
the beautiful wind of the very early dark part
of the morningóthe one for daylight is differentó
with it flowing along them as they flash away.  Now
an ambulance comes screaming by, throwing
its red and its wailing everywhere.  We were taught
as kids to pray when we heard that siren; it meant
someone was badly hurt and might be dying, a thing
that seemed mysterious and far away.  Now though
still mysterious it doesnít seem so far away.
Mr. Watson took his fiddle out the other night
(the one he made himself ) and played a few
of the old ones:  Granny, Will Your Dog Bite?
and Sourwood Mountain was another one
and Rubber Dolly, with its silly words he tried
to sing for us but couldnít manage:
Please donít tell her/ Iíve got a feller / or she
wonít buy me/ a rubber dolly. 
The Germans shot him
in the throat back in the war he said.  He showed us
there was still a small bruise-colored mark just under
the jaw though it didnít look at all like it must have
at first when the fat blood filled his mouth and felt so warm
and he felt it rushing away through his torn-open skin.
Though heís fine now, he said, he canít sing
like he once was able to.  When we made
sympathetic sounds, he said, Oh, it wasnít síbad.
They sent us back away from there to where
there was hot coffee and pretty nurses.  I couldnít drink
the coffee for a while, he said, and smiled, but it was nice
to smell it making.  Meanwhile the nighthawks are curling
and banking and swooping over the wide empty lawn.
I donít know the language but it doesnít seem like
courtship or hunting or combat, more like play
or showing off or maybe itís just pleasure in the feeling
of their movement and the counter-movement of the wind.
It makes me wonder what itís like to be the wind, naked
and fluid, invisible, a creature who can move through
anything, a shape without boundaries or structure, a song
without words or notes.  In the new silence, the call
of a dove and then, I donít know why, that feeling again:
how strange it is to be alive, to be a creature,
to have what we call memory (for blood on the snow,
for the words of a song), with skin to be wounded
and healed, with an urge to sing and no idea why,
with the subtle mysterious feeling of breath as it moves,
its slightly rough touch and flow (and ordinary caress)
coming in, and then the almost imperceptible feeling
of its departure, which always seems temporary.

Copyright © 2004 Robert Gregory.  All Rights Reserved.

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