k e l l y l e n o x a l l a n ~ p o r t l a n d , o r e g o n
AGATHA, PIN OAK
Trunk, lobed fingers, your pulse felt, not heard:
faerie, from fāta, goddess of fate—
the inevitable life I might stop believing in
were it not for your night eyes.
Walking this trail in the dark, Agatha,
I know the moment I near your watching,
feel it in the black seed of my brain.
Does your gaze fall thus on all the girls
who pass this way after dusk?
Agatha, tonight my feet will carry me
no further than your broad trunk,
fit to rest my back against.
Low limbs invite my shinny
up into your branches,
their ample crook fit for nestling,
for holding this heavy head;
my legs and arms twine around your easy bark
and I do not fall.
I do not.
The boy is calling. No sheep, no goats,
no horses come; no dogs, chickens—
nothing. He continues, laying a mantilla of song
across the foothills.
From the northeast, the sky moves toward him—
birds, swelling over the landscape, a gray wave
slapping at the solitary voice then passing on, leaving
threads tangled on the turbulent air.
The boy calls into the declining day—its sunset
of worn sandpaper, its night of polished marble
and stars, beating their drums.
In the village, storytellers remember
how their tales were once painted
into fine leathered boxes
that could not hold the alphabetic drip
of horns and guitars spilling off the paper,
rising over the countryside like a fragrant
offering to the godly constellations.
Here, their story breaks and they begin
to speak on the splintery old floor
with toes and torn cloth,
voices arise from fingertips, from the backs of their necks,
each downy hair speaking straight to the silent sky.
The boy calls into the night.
THE CERNE GIANT
It's the caption—
Looking up the axis of the giant's phallus—
that resolves this picture of white lines on grass
into the midsection of a man, his figure trenched
into a chalk hillside. That axis, at midsummer,
points directly into the rising sun.
One hand grips a raised club,
by himself he lacks the power to move.
For centuries turf cutters have kept him
where he belongs, covering him up
during the war to keep
bombers from reading his map.
His great mark on the land awakens in me
the Ring of Brodgar, far to the north.
Its huge wheel of stones inscribes the sky
over the rolling turf of its island;
they would be matchsticks to this giant in the south.
I remember walking a path worn through the heather
within that stone circle and by halfway round,
drawn up by my steps, another ring is rising from the moor,
surrounding me in currents of light, of song
almost heard; whirling faster, faster
than my humming bones ever could alone,
we wreathe the thinness of this place,
its solid grip on my moving body
and I'd be there still, would not
have broken that circle for the world
but it slipped away when my child called me to the car,
my family waiting for me to take my place
and I turned, walking easily between two rocks.
At home with this book, old Orkney
still arcs and loops within me. If my feet
could trace the body of this Cerne Giant
from his ankle to his hip—
his other side and up again…
what might arise from the chalk
on stout legs, inhabit its vast perimeter,
lift one grassy hand?
What of his life
would I carry with me,
tall as the very hill?
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