"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dairy barn love song

Up by the rooftop flies the little silver owl on wings free and gliding like a rainbow’s.

Although the hayloft here has room for all, bats dig clawed naked feet deeper into vintage rafters, struggling against bossy relatives. For hatred of what they eat, I say nothing when sweeping the unclean hay below on Saturdays. People get pest control, the bats survive richly; I think this is good.

By noon the sun is a hand pushing down on my hair, and the concrete block wall with the year 1976 stands out unflinching as a barn swallow’s nest. Dandelion’s airless pollen makes my nose run, and the clover’s trinity leaves open their holy heart. Gravel fallen from the wall is the dirt and the dirt where walls sit. The barn is loud as a blowing weathervane; when you notice it, I don’t, not forgotten sounds of home.

Across the patio from mowed-down elephant ears, three-foot leaves spitting one-inch confetti, a robin pecks in the hay pile of brome and timothy. Though I’ve never hurt him, he hops two steps away. “I wish you’d stay,” I say, “You’d be a magical pet.” Mildly amused, he peers at me, and flies away.

When the wind coughs through the aisle, wooden gates rattle like fireplaces. Sunlight fleeing out the window, I knife open the bale, passing the bag of twine. Knitting, knotting, the twine breathes its bittersweet scent, green dye against green hay, holding the bales for the horses, where pawing hooves mark down impatience. Below me, spilled-bucket water swims in earth. That night I remember hay splinters, needled through gloves, bronzed, pinning dirt to skin, and try to forget by rubbing a silk pillow.

Something whispers, you can become more human here, if you want to. I have: watch the weathervane’s twirling in the prairie winds, barn swallows’ nests with four eggs in them. Alfalfa and dandelion, McCormick and Farmall, barn cat and farm dog. Also two black horses with muddy legs and wringing tails; I watch them bite their sides, kicking at bellies against golden deerflies. Those flies have settled, now, into the hayfield’s grass, a blemish in the thick-fringed carpet of someone’s room, and stayed when I have not. Look at what I still have, dull knives with dirty handles, respect for owls and bats at night, and sympathy for the smell of twine.