Seasons in the North Woods
The wheeling blue-bill mallards all night long
With whistling wings curve down from gravelly clouds,
While down below them, crazed on the chill lakes,
The loons shake out their wings, dive down, and rise,
Cry back up in reply. The Star that reaches
Far past the Chair and the rush of Charles’s Wain,
Bends down, and pondering in the blaze of night,
Lifts fish from chill pits into April streams.
Cracking weed shells, and thwacking bills on bark,
The agile companies of April sit
As quaint and graceful as medieval guilds.
Now the ruffed grouse beat their wings on rotting logs,
And throb the spring away. Farmers dig holes,
And women bring their lunch through wooded paths.
Standing among the popple, the old hired man
Hoists stones, and lifts his shirttail to his face.
Then soon, how soon, the summer’s days are gone;
And blackbirds form in flocks, their duties through.
And now the last autumnal freedom comes:
Zumbrota acorns drop, sun-pushed as plums,
To half-wild hogs in Cerro Gordo trees,
And disappointed bees, with half-gold knees
Sail home. It’s done. October’s cold is sweet,
And winter will be stamping of the feet.
From Eating the Honey of Words: New and Selected Poems, HarperCollins, NY 2000.