by Karenne Wood
after Derek Walcott
You never forget: a white chapel, perched by the roadside,
the bulk of granite outcrop on which it sits like a hat,
the redbuds, yellowed now, the dogwood rusting, dignified
as a matriarch, as fluted leaves begin to encircle it,
the mountains against orange clouds to the west,
a chimney steaming with the season's first drift of smoke,
pale against the sky and sinuous as a woman undressed
in someone's window. Across fields, you hear the shriek
of a hawk, gliding over Bear Mountain, past spines of corn
arcing back toward the earth, and smell a faint reek
of apples shriveled together in the grass. The creek's bliss
continues under the road, behind trees, where a cabin
settles into the ground. Can you genuinely claim these,
and do they reclaim you? Dusty yards, red-rimmed eyes of men
in overalls, women with stained hands, their faces resigned
beyond the years, irreversibly, and are they your own? Their thin
voices, brittle as their joints; shelves in their root-cellars, lined
with callused potatoes and onion bulbs, apples in barrels, rows
of home-canned provisions that gleam in jars; their cordwood
stacked in readiness, quilts on their beds. The autumn glows
around you, hilltops enflamed in the sun's last light. The land,
the land you never forget, rises, falls and rises again, always:
yes, they reclaim you in a way you need not understand.

From Markings on Earth, University of Arizona Press.
© 2001 Karenne Wood
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