They struggle like men trying to be proud
before the sea. From a distance,
it’s hard to tell if they are soulless,
or if something huddles up inside
like a hutch of rabbits; and up close,
it’s painful how their posture
will not please them or pull them
far enough from itch to matter.
On a middle ground, though —a raise
that neither praises nor degrades them
—we can see that they were born
content (maybe in a caul of darkness,
a sharp nest of shapelessness) not knowing
who they were or what their danger is.
Some may accuse them of morbidity,
of waiting for the ambulance to form
from the wind’s high pitch through dunes.
But their job, if it can be named, is reminding
us we each grew up in one sort of countryside,
among decompisition and the high grasses:
We are, all of us, a product of our own
pre-industry, a tool-less time
when voices weren’t heard rasping behind
air, and our own hands filled our gloves.
We each saw as individuals the fox steal
onto the trail. We memorized that
exact topography, the one we thought
we’d come back to in years to come:
the trail cutting clear through the acreage
and into farms abutting like dialects;
soil slightly different, figures rearranged.