Starting With a Line from Jane Cooper
Things have their own lives here.
Walnut chest sinks into heaviness
how serious this life it seems to say
I cannot lift its lid without my husband’s help
to air its contents would be heresy.
Let the coverlet lie quietly,
folded inside a feather bed.
Trencher waits for the spill of beans,
while the kettle balances on a delicate trivet.
My wrought iron accoutrements
complicated as a Puritan sermon
hang on the hearth wall.
Candles sizzle right as rain but not enough light
or room to turn around.
Later the table will be disassembled,
planks from trestle.
This is my make-do life.
A single chair counts my steps
as I climb the stairs at night
and climb back down again to greet
morning’s white light.
Snow reaches up to the window sill.
I feel buried within this husk.
Only Spring can deliver us.
Beyond the fence, buried also,
lies the meadow.
Months from now it will be a bowl of sky and grass.
Birds will call Break free of your violent and faithful lives.
melts snow drip dripping
on a wood floor.
Kettle boils, its tiny wars
settle into china teacups delicately
balanced, this scene: the French woman
who smells of lilies-
of-the-valley. I dis-
appear, become a vole
burrowing deep in foreign soil.
emerge to flash of cloistered light.
inside this jewel box of stained glass
where the benign sisters
of Notre Dame
scurry round the clock
singing the hours of the day:
Matins, Laud and Compline
and doing mundane tasks at hand: making
lace and bread.
From none now I have fifty mothers
dressed in black and white,
their faces framed in stiff wimples,
windowpanes to their pale souls.
And mine settles into this Great Peace
nestled between three rivers and two wars,
my body and soul light as the host
the Priest lifts overhead each Mass,
light as the starlings rising and fallings
before their migrations South.
What is it you should consider?
What is beyond the stockade,
beyond the meadow, at the edge of
the deep wilderness where life
where the Indian lives and moves?
Moment-by-moment you are saved
you are unsaved.
This is your life, this is your salvation—
Consider something less:
the light in winter
how it becomes slant
how it disappears when you need it most.
The hearth will simmer a tune
while you wile away an hour.
Empty your mind of obligations.
Sing a song to accompany the kettle’s work.