• Clearing

    Christian Wiman

    Summer 1998

    It was when I walked lost
    in the burn and rust
    of late October that I turned
    near dusk toward the leaf-screened
    light of a green clearing in the trees.
    In the untracked and roadless open
    I saw an intact but wide-open house,
    half-standing and half-lost
    to unsuffered seasons of wind
    and frost: warped tin and broken stone,
    old wood combed by the incurious sun.
    The broad wall to the stark north,
    each caulked chink and the solid hearth
    dark with all the unremembered fires
    that in the long nights quietly died,
    implied a life of bare solitude
    and hardship, little to hold
    and less to keep, aching days
    and welcome sleep in the mind-clearing cold.
    And yet the wide sky, the wildflowered ground
    and the sound of the wind
    in the burn and rust of late October
    as the days shortened and the leaves turned
    must have been heartening, too,
    to one who walked out of the trees
    into a green clearing that he knew.
    If you could find this place,
    or even for one moment feel
    in the word-riddled remnants
    of what I felt there
    the mild but gathering air, see the leaves
    that with one good blast would go,
    you could believe
    that standing in a late weave of light and shade
    a man could suddenly want his life,
    feel it blaze in him and mean,
    as for a moment I believed,
    before I walked on.

    Christian Wiman is the author of My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (FSG 2013) and He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art (FSG 2018). His most recent books of poems are Hammer is the Prayer and Survival is a Style, both from FSG. He received the Aiken Taylor Prize in Modern Poetry from the Sewanee Review in 2016.

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