The Field I Know

The field I know has scars layered like old cities:
Ruins under ruins under teeming ruins-to-be;
Labyrinths of dead, subterranean highways,
Winding catacombs beneath living streets.
In the furthest depths
                                    ancient dreams ferment
Liquefying into hidden black lakes.
The dead harden into veins of black stone:
Plunder for the warmth-hungry living.
Above lie the newly dead,
The excess of last year's harvest,
The wreckage of weeds, chaff, and compost.

We can go, you and I,
And walk on the surface of it.
See how it goes for miles
In all directions under a changeling sky:
Sea of gold and green,
Poppy-red and lemon-yellow,
Earth brown and black,
And the rolling furrows
Rolling like waves with the changes,
Rolling with the undercurrents of dead dreams and living desires,
Furrows neat and marching like soldiers on parade,
Furrows wild and willy-nilly like the tangled hair of a careless child,
A sweeping, boundless bounty
Smiling under a yellow sun,
Laughing under wind and rain.
It goes on mile after mile
Stretching to the foot of mountains,
The sighing curve of rivers,
And the edges of darkling forests,
A sweeping, boundless bounty.

But take a closer look,
And you'll see things are divided up.
This is my plot,
Sad little corner staked and roped off in twine.
Here, I can scratch
Maybe three scrawny furrows with my knobby little stick.
Mind you, seeds are easy to come by:
Wheat, corn, sugar cane,
Roses, hyacinths,
Fruit trees,
Beans and potatoes…
All are more or less free for the having.
But what to plant;
That's the rub, isn't it?
Knowing what's good for the belly,
And what will thrive on your
Particular plot.
And who is ever really sure if they've sown the right crops
And in the right proportions?

In the end, it's about the same:
It's a crap-shoot for everyone
Though some are wiser to Nature's ways
And some are allowed a furrow or two in excess of others
(Though not always the best planters).
We sow, we reap and eat what we may.
We plow and turn the earth of our father's fathers.
And when we go down,
Our son's sons and their sons
Turn our bones and blood deeper into the earth,
And our names succumb to the relentless
Order of decomposition,
But the strange truth is that in its own way
The field remembers.

George Chadderdon © 2000