Sunday, April 4, 2021

Only All this Damage

Deep cuts on my left hand after stumbling throwing foundation stones, flesh so readily torn. How pretty blood is, pooling in the groove between my knuckles, then spilling down all four fingers like melting rubies. "That'll need stitches," says Craig - who grew up in Boston, moved here last year, but still works there - and I laugh, remembering all the times in my life I needed stitches and didn't get them because we couldn't say aloud how the injury occurred. 

Absent a clear border, the neighbor's sheep drift into the horse pasture, which surprises but doesn't alarm the horses who eventually return to grazing while we run the sheep off, waving sticks. I remember years ago driving around on days like this as a reporter looking for cool pictures and stories, drinking coffee, poor but not unhappy. Why did I leave that job again? 

Chrisoula stays inside to make pancakes, home fries, ham steaks and coffee, not happily but somebody has to do it, and her back won't bear heavy lifting anymore. The young men helping me are quiet but grin at each other when I lean over gasping after dragging fence panels into the forest. "It ends faster than you think" is what I want to tell them but don't because it's okay because they're young. Close up the maple trees being strangled by bittersweet don't lean as bad as I thought. Out here it seems like the wind has a voice, wants to say something, but it's a language I don't understand, or not a language at all, and anyway there's only all this damage. Was this the sentence I was meant to write?

As we work, sunlight bleeds through fast-moving storm clouds, crystal snow flurries spackling our shoulders. "This ain't good," Jasper says, staring at the sky full of invisible but howling gusts, stopping on his way to help the Andersens, whose barn roof was blown clear off half an hour earlier. "I didn't know he smoked," Jeremiah says, watching Jasper walk back to the still-running pickup and I say, "only when things feel out of control," to which Jeremiah replies carefully, trying out the man he is becoming, "I don't see how that helps," and I put a hand on his shoulder, loving him so much my throat chokes, say "yeah it doesn't but it's okay, sometimes we pretend, that's how a lot of living gets done out here." 

By "out here" I mean something about men, which Jeremiah both gets and doesn't care to get, being more his mother's son than anything else. At ten a.m. we all agree noon is when the wind will end, as if saying so helps, but we all know it only takes one hard blow - a couple seconds flat - to create days of work and expenses none of us can afford (who aren't working in Boston). "At least we've got good neighbors" is a common refrain, the easy consensus, especially from those for whom "around here" began less than twenty years ago. Lots of dead men and women weigh in, what comes to us as whispers, a language we've forgotten we know and hide now in declarations made popular by Robert Frost, Wendell Berry, et al. 

I'm tired of something here but I can't say exactly what. Or is it that I don't know to whom I'm supposed to say it? I want to rest but don't. Can't? This isn't the last wind we'll see, is something I could say but don't. Won't? A lot goes unsaid out here, in this - in my - for better or worse - life. 

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