I’ve eaten too many peaches, but am comforted by the shoosh of the dishwasher, except suddenly it sounds like it’s trying to grind up broken glass, or at least eggshells. An old notebook lies open on my lap, and I have been immersed in memories. Times when we all went to the top of the hill on Resurrection Dayand sang “Morning has Broken” at the first ray of sunrise. Songs made up with friends and sung from a doorstep in Halifax on Mardi Gras. A list of eighteen books recommended by friends, one magazine described as “the Mad Magazine of Christianity,” another my friend Andrew called “a truth book.” Each says something about the friend who added it, and some not clearly until now. Here is a poem from the book a spiritual mentor Mark Harris recommended. I hope I have retyped it correctly from my notebook, in which I copied it that day:
The Masks of Drought
by William Everson
from his book The Veritable Years
Four wet winters and now the dry.
All the long season a sterile frost
Grips the mountain, the coast like flanged metal
Bent thwart the sea. Above:
Stripped trees, taut-twisted branches
Catch stark white light. Below:
Shriveled creekbeds, raw to the air, run naked roots,
Obscenely groined through flaking rock,
The scat of torrents.
Then early last evening
A thin drizzle, gaining toward dusk. Before dark dropped
The low-hanging cloud slit its belly and the rain plunged.
All night long the thirsty slopes drank straight-falling water,
Soaking it up, filling those tilted, deep-shelving seams,
Blue veins of the mountain, zig-zag crevices of the fractured shale.
When dawn flared and the rain held
the runoff began.
We rise with the light,
Sally down to the stream to touch fresh water
For a kind of blessing. We find instead a river of ink.
All the hoard of tributary creeks, those catchers of leaf-drift–
The strip of alder and the slough of fir,
Acrid shaft of the leathery tan-oak; and laurel,
The redolent, littering leaves of the laurel–
All that autumn opulence
Frost drove down and ruthlessly squandered
Four moons back, to rot where it fell,
Now crawls to the sea, a liquid bile.
You look up at last in a wondering way
And exclaim softly, “Why, the mountain is menstruating!”
Something in your voice, a tremor there,
Tells of the mutual womanly-pulse, the deep sensation,
Its sympathetic pang, its soft vibration
Looking, I see indeed it is true:
Leaves like dead cells
Long held back in the frigid womb
Now begin to flow–under the rain
A deep cleansing, this rite of renewal.
For me it is runoff but my heart purges.
Touching you and creek-throb in the same impulse
I am healed of frost:
Woman and water in the blood-flow.