TO MY WIFE

What makes a wood at night
So much like a living room
Where kindling stands straight
Up in the hearth, growing gloom

And strangeness cast aside by light,
Or logs, or this rising moon
Which, starting fast between the bright,
Leafless stands of fall will soon

Glinting cogs of fire spark,
As sleeping lands
Flood suddenly from dark?


Just before Thanksgiving, walking back through the
woods in the moonlight, I stopped and watched the quiet
of the night settle in as the moon rose over the large boulder
up on the ridge, lighting up the woods, making every
tree a birch.

How marvelous, I thought, to feel so comfortable in
this potentially cold and hostile environment, alone in the
dark beyond the lights of civilization and yet so close to a
warm fire, just before the snow. How many of my acquaintances
would take the same pleasure from a moment like
this? And how lucky was I to have a wife who encouraged
such moments?

Further, I thought, what makes the woods so comfortable?
I turned around to look behind me up at the high
ridge. Much more threatening. No moon, no light. The
trees had no silhouette. It was the moon that lit and lightened
the woods, that made them comfortable. Why? Because
the moon defined the trees, in both senses.

As Cathy gives me definition, I thought. And with that
one line in mind, I decided to see what the rest of it might
look like, hoping it might convey the comfort and desolation,
the structure and freedom of the moment, equating
marriage with a wood and wives with moons, those
vast tidal pulls, with a fireplace thrown in because hearths
somehow evoke the homeyness of Thanksgiving in those
early Pilgrim cabins, spilling over with gourds, pumpkins,
and late corn. Hearths seemed the midpoint, the metaphor,
between trees and people, woods and loves, the
bricks and mortar of the heart.

Often I have made notes for a poem or even begun it,
returning later to find the particular chemistry of invention
gone, leaving only technique and resulting in a very
di<erent poem. Some feelings lurk beneath the skin, below
the words, some marvelous fears or mortalities that
egg the process on and then disappear in a cloud of dust
like Butch Cassidy. “Who are those guys?” I ask myself,
but I never find out what epileptic spasm dictates form
and then leaves, commissions Mozart’s Requiem and never
picks it up.

Bedford
Thanksgiving, 1985

Rue de Varenne
Easter, 2005
Tippet Alley
November 7th, 2008