Going from winter (otherwise known as much of April) to summer (disguised as May this year) has plummeted many of us in Kansas into the high humidity of late summer, chiggers and thunderstorms and all. While determined to work outside on this porch as much as I can — ceiling and floor fans swirling and iced water flowing — I’m hot, sweaty, shaky, and a little stunned. It feels like those breezy spring days full of blossoms galore and chilled good sleeping weather have been climate-napped away. But then we live in and do well to acknowledge the extremes wrought by life and global warming.
No season leaves us without gifts, however, and lately, the mid-90’s day temperatures dissolve into those luscious summer nights that I also live for. Walking on deck or down the gravel drive each night (lesson learned from this weekend: don’t walk in the grass without protection because the ticks and chiggers are fierce), I’m reminded of how much I love strolling through summer nights. Like most things in language, a poem shows that better than I could explain, so I dug out a small set of poems I wrote some years ago over the course of many summer nights. This poem (along with many others) appears in my book, How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems.
Three Walking Songs for the Night
I walk across a field. No more destination,
journey through or over water.
No more dreams of arriving.
I’m here, overlooking a small slope
that leads nowhere. Leaves drop out
of the wet branches. The field eats them.
A fox. Then the sky turns itself
like a clever hand this way and that,
blocking or letting through the moon.
Sometimes rain falls. No matter.
The animals come anyway.
When it clears, I lie on the fallen grass,
look at the brave sky,
and tell myself, “shut up and trust that.”
When I wake in the dark, I will go to the forest
with no flashlight, and walk slowly, afraid,
letting my feet make out where next to step,
waiting for what’s hidden to let me into its hiding.
No longer dreaming of his hands cupping my head
tenderly, I will just walk in, feeling only
where to land, the noise of the running world no longer running,
the tree frogs cupping their motor song over
the motor song of the cicadas, the brush of branch
on branch, the owls a broken harmonic.
Oh, dream of being loved so perfectly,
Oh, dream of forgiveness,
Oh, damp moon in a pool of clouds,
wide stillness of nothing that we call sky,
now, please let me be brave enough.
I was afraid most of that year.
No particular reason.
Just the rush of old air through my lungs
as if it had nothing better to do.
I’d wake a lot at night, puppy diving
after the kitten, the baby nightmaring
right into the center of my good dream.
I’d wake for nothing also,
sit up, climb out of bed, walking the house
to prove to myself there was no reason
to be afraid. I mean, look at that moon
carrying itself branch to tree branch.
Look at the indentations the wind makes
of its body in the grass.
See how round the earth is,
remember how many animals sleep
hidden like prayers in the tall grass.
See the open mouth of the sky, the shifting of stars
across the throat of the universe,
this time in its slot actually happening.