Then

by Robert Simmons

Then
Uncertainly
As birds consider final wheepring calls
in phosphor hollows,
an old man limps in tall wet grass
across the hill
to doze with cows and watch the undecided fog
slide from the trees into night meadows.

A stubborn shade of some unboundaried life
when ancient timber wound
along the windings of the creek
and held it clear and clean,
he saw tall Iowa bluestem
tickle the ears of elk,
and knew the bloody thicket
where grouse gave life to foxes
and the universe of wildness was tuned.

Young searchers know
he’s still there. Woolen threads
cling to barbed wire
and unmatched outworn boots
print tracks around the lower spring.
Parents who won’t say so out loud
will know the sad descending cry
from the grove at dark
is not quite bird song, not quite
something else,
a sorrowing for what we have become,
a grieving plea to be at long last gone.

The kid who’s winding up the darkening ridge
in search of finding
is too big to be afraid of fright
and too scared to share the night
with what it might contain.
Fluorescence of the rain reveals
the scalloping boot mark
of an unsteady foot.
He’ll run, to shun uncertainties
and live in wildless woodless life
untroubled
by the death of myth,
secure from what we, carefully
do not know.

Robert Simmons is a poet who lives in Bellingham, Washington.

See all articles by Robert Simmons