Welcome Home

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Before the Rain by Mark A. Harrison

The woods welcome me back,
draw me in like
a prodigal daughter,
and i have come home,
as if i never left;

There are children here,
and a complicated dog,
who keeps running
to the front of the group
and back again;

At the rest stop, kids build
moss houses and stick castles;
i wander off on my own
to play my whistle to the wind–
the silence after i stop
is absolute, as if
i was never playing;

We clatter over wobbly log bridges,
haphazardly strewn across little streams
and ponds as if by accident;
wolf tracks in the wet sand
by a beaver dam, dapple brown grouse
beating away through the trees,
and later (or earlier), a smoky oil lamp,
turning the fluted glass black;
the rain comes in the night
and is gone by morning.

Back in the city, away
from the star-strewn sky,
and the lake, still as a prayer,
we find new life in the asphalt desert:
the hidden trill of urban sparrows,
defiant daisies pushing through concrete,
the animal growl of cars and buses,
dry leaves skittering over pavement.

– T.H.

 

iv. But I digress

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Photo by Mark, messed with by me

In the absence of ambition, we become a conglomeration of tangents, an aimless wandering path laid down by the stick the dog is carrying: a scrappy, stocky, short-legged terrier beagle something or other cross, who has somehow outdistanced her loping, tongue-lolling, muddy pawed golden retriever pal, and is dragging a branch far too big for her size, but nowhere near equal to her spirit.

The broad line laid down in the dormant November grass, still wet with last night’s frost, will last for a few hours, at most; the sun has already thawed the exposed areas; only the shadows still carry hints of freezing, the ground crunchy and damp under recently unearthed winter boots.

A path laid down by accident, without purpose or intent, a temporary testament to life having passed this way, proof that momentum exists, that change is inevitable. And yet, itself, it is static, empty of life, mere black marks on a white background, bird tracks and fallen branches, a memory of what was, rather than a bold imagining of something new, something yet to come.

But if you follow the trail long enough, it will do at least one thing: it will bring you home.

Music: Thelonious Monk, Live in Japan 1963

iii. Cooking, and other creative endeavors

The components of the spell are there, the page in the recipe book yellowed with age, smudged and stained with cocoa and brown sugar and cinnamon – not because you need the recipe any more; it was memorized years ago, as instinctive now as any other everyday task. You know exactly what to reach for, in which cupboard, in which order. You have the perfect spoon, worn soft to the touch; the perfect bowl, beautifully weathered, scratched and dented, fine hairline cracks in the porcelain, like an old painting.

The smaller metal bowls ring when you clean them, a clear mild tone, teased into wakefulness by an enthusiastic swipe of the frayed checkered dish towel, encouraged to greater volume as the sink provides quiet settling background noises, the last soap bubbles sighing in resignation, collapsing, imploding in near-silent release.

Blue hills rise from the fog

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Line Expression by Mark A. Harrison

The Return

Blue hills rise from the fog
in the pre-dawn light
Our skin pricked cold
breath hanging
like words best forgotten
This is the true homecoming
We know the bedrock here
like our own bones
felt but not seen
except in times of disaster
We left regret behind
in the last village
clinging to the cliff’s edge
like a gnarled, salt-stung tree
Remember how you said
you didn’t like to travel
but if getting there is hard
it makes arrival that much sweeter
Here the sheep and cows and chickens
are anything but domestic
wild, shaggy, ruffled
with eyes like coal embers
storm-blasted, hawk-harried,
they’re no easy kill
We leave the car
by the side of the road
and walk into the lifting fog
leaving footprints in wet grass
We climb
until we can barely stand
Looking down we imagine
the curve of the earth
We can feel moss growing
between our toes
feel the pulse of waves
through the soles of our feet
Now you understand
what home feels like
and wonder where you’ve been
all this time.

– TH

Where Else?

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Triumphant Bloom by Mark A. Harrison

Was reminded of this one today while following the winding trails of the bike paths along the river down to Little Lake.

Where else?

I.

This is where I’ve always been
my soul lives here among dirt and weeds
cedar hedges as big as houses
burble of frogs in the distant wet darkness
sparkle of white burbling chirp among branches
leaves twisting and falling and budding again
my soul scrapes mud off its boots in the evening
is rises in morning with the earth’s turning
and remembers winter only dimly
snow like cotton candy fairytale ice cream
icicles tinkling as wind blows through
trees and fences, half frozen lakes steaming
like cups of tea with the sun’s dawning
my soul tumbles over small smooth stones
a little brook dreaming a mighty river
it rubs its nose and cleans dirty fingernails
breaths through imperfect hazardous skin
every day drinking air fresh as mountain springs
cold clarity of emptiness, wholeness in absence
my ears ring in the stillness
in air thick with silence
my soul’s back twists and bends and aches
my soul’s feet are bare against hot dry grass
soft mounds like fox fur, sleeping in sunlight
their blades cut your fingers, leave burs stuck poking
like porcupine quills
Yet my soul forgets splinters, manure & blisters
rust twisted metal and barbed wire fences
it knows only earth, bark, knot, feather, fur
music of grey geese heard but not seen
a confusion of seasons
Where else, but here?
Where I’ve always been.

– T.H.