“Landscape For Stones” Jean Burden

Like children in search of surprise
we crept through the pinching gate,
leaving the meadow behind,
leaving sheep, tame to our eyes,
and small birds in the grass.

You wore your red hat;
I carried poems. You took my hand
and pointed upward. We saw the cormorants pass.

Then the dunes broke open
and we fell from time,
upon sand
unmarked except by tide,
upon water filling half the world,
and flung against a sky as wide.

(We were not children then;
we were not even young)

We entered softly, pretending no fear.
You walked from me along the soapy edges of the surf;
I scooped a hollow from immensity,
and made a pillow of your shoes.

But there was no welcome here.
We were a bruise
upon the land.

This was country not for men-
for stones, perhaps, or fish that never learned to climb.
It was a landscape poets dread.
Our symbols freeze: the seas is sea;
the bird, a nameless bird.
We are not gods to leave our trace
on rock or air.
We belong to seasons
and to time.

I would have told you this
but you were half a mile away,
measuring your small height against the sky,
metaphor and mortal,
precious to my eye,
and loudly in this empty, wordless place
(though you could not have heard)
I called against the wind
one fierce, defiant word.

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