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.

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