The Fall

for Andy

Another September, brother: the ironweed stiffens, a rag of mist flutters from its stem, torn from the gray quilt thrown over Grandfather Mountain. A redtailed hawk hunts its shadow across overcast pastures.

It’s true that I wandered, that I slept in the uncollected water of the fields, letting delicate ice lock onto my feet. Listen, the bell of a primitive church pealed this each day — already past, past and gone — and I would wake up haunted as the whitehaired thistle. Yes, I forgot you too, I let everything go but the spiders mending my hand to the grass. Where the fallen fences pointed I would trail through a splendor of straw and dusk, following the firefly’s curve of thoughtlessness.

When I fell and the blood came up at last, I thought nothing of laying my wounds to the earth and letting it heal over me. And when they pried me from the gorge to reset all the bones I’d broken like promises to god, I shrank from my body until it thinned to nothing more than old chicory, the blue face swinging on its cracked stalk. . . .

I came to, but remembering myself is still a hard cold thing. The house squats over me like a huge stuffed animal, it numbs the need to survive; the fog reaches through the open window to swaddle my face in damp cotton. But if I start to yield, the hawk wings nailed to the barn say Don’t love forgetfulness so well — so I breathe an obscure white promise to you that renews itself as soon as it vanishes.

Come here soon, I’m ready to lean on you awhile. I know I don’t say it so good, but you’re family, you know what to believe: after a fall like that a man can squint into standing water and see many faces besides his own. Listen just now a meadowlark sways on the rusty ironweed, brother, he’s looking right through me, repealing all the deaths I saved up until now.