Damp Pewter Days



Here, what’s made, these braids, unmakes
itself in time, and must be made
again, within and against
time. So I braid
your hair each day.
My fingers gather, measure hair,
hook, pull and twist hair and hair.
Deft, quick, they plait,
weave, articulate lock and lock, to make
and make these braids, which point
the direction of my going, of all our continuous going.
And though what’s made does not abide,
my making is steadfast, and, besides, there is a making
of which this making-in-time is just a part,
a making which abides
beyond the hands which rise in the combing,
the hands which fall in the braiding,
trailing hair in each stage of its unbraiding.

Love, how the hours accumulate. Uncountable.
The trees grow tall, some people walk away
and diminish forever.
The damp pewter days slip around without warning
and we cross over one year and one year.
~Li-Young Lee from “Braiding”




Clover Breath

 “It was the face of spring, it was the face of summer, it was the warmness of clover breath.
Pomegranate glowed in her lips, and the noon sky in her eyes.
To touch her face was that always new experience of opening your window one December morning, early,
and putting out your hand to the first white cool powdering of snow
that had come, silently, with no announcement, in the night.
And all of this, this breath-warmness and plum-tenderness was held forever in one miracle of photographic
is chemistry which no clock winds could blow upon to change one hour or one second;
this fine first cool white snow would never melt, but live a thousand summers.”
Ray Bradbury in Dandelion Wine

Every autumn my father, an agriculture teacher by training, brought home gunny sacks of grass seed from the feed and seed store.  He would start up his 1954 Farmall Cub tractor, proceed to disc and harrow an acre of bare ground in our field, and then fill the seeder, distributing seed on the soil for his annual agronomy cover crop over winter growing experiment.  The little sprouts would wait to appear in the warming spring weather, an initial green haziness spread over the brown dirt, almost like damp green mold.  Within days they would form a plush and inviting velveteen green cushion, substantial enough for a little wiggle of blades in the breezes.  A few weeks later the cover would be a full fledged head of waving green hair, the wind blowing it wantonly, bending the stems to its will.  It was botanical pasture magic, renewable and marvelous,  only to be mowed and stubble turned over with the plow back into the soil as nutrition for the summer planting to come.  It was the sacrificial nature of cover crops to be briefly beautiful on top of the ground, but the foundational nurture once underground.

One spring the expected grassy carpet growth didn’t look quite the same after germination–the sprouts were little round leaves, not sharp edged blades.  Instead of identical uniform upright stems, the field was producing curly chaotic ovoid and spherical shapes and sizes. Clover didn’t abide by the same rules as grasses.  It had a mind of its own with a burgeoning and bumpy napped surface that didn’t bend with breezes, all its effort invested instead in producing blossoms.

A hint of pink one morning was so subtle it was almost hallucinatory.  Within a day it was unmistakeably reddening and real.  Within a week the green sea flowed with bobbing crimson heads. We had never seen such vibrancy spring from our soil before.  It exuded scented clover breath, the fragrance calling honey bees far and near.  True reverie.

The field of crimson dreams and sated honey bees lasted several weeks before my father headed back out on the Farmall to turn it under with the plow, burying the fading blossoms into the ground.  Their sacrifice bled red into the soil, their fragrant breath halted, their memory barely recognizable in the next summer crop germination.   Yet the crimson heads were there, feeding the growth of the next generation, deepening the green as it reached to the sun.

Such a sweet thing, alive a thousand summers hence in the soil.

What a beautiful feeling.

Crimson and clover, over and over.

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Emily Dickinson