We interrupt our regular programming for this poetic interlude.
JOHN HENRY GOES TO CHURCH
Dawn had come hardly seen
Above the heavy fog filling the valley,
Above the clouds covering the ridgetop,
The world around translucent to any eye.
John Henry stepped out his door
To greet the day and orient himself
As to his place in nature.
His memory of space, the mountain’s shadow
Through the gloom, and the creek’s
Delicate silvery echoes sounding the way
Told him again, somehow never redundant,
Never commonplace or stale, all he needed to know
Closing the door behind him
He started down the valley along the creek,
Skirting marshlands and pausing to watch
A wild turkey lumber into the air
Across the water into the woods and fog
At the mountain’s base, a fearful fury
Of feathers struggling to safety, then all quiet,
All hidden, and he resumed his trail to church.
A light breeze thinned the fog
As it carried the sound ringing
From the small cast iron bell
Summoning the hearing to gather and meet
This sabbath before Beltane.
John Henry heard the call
And the conversational murmur
Of neighbors greeting each other,
Then saw the whitewashed stones
Lining the path from creek trail
To the whitewashed clapboard church
Built a generation ago
And he entered the open door
Nodding to greet each one.
Inside he listened and could not help
Wondering about the past.
Not just what they ate but how did they cook it?
Whose recipe did they use?
Not just what they drank but what grapes and yeast
Did they use for the wine?
Who made the table and chairs? By what method?
How old was the room, for he assumed that
It was not new? Was there a window with a view?
Being John Henry he wondered at the weight
Of the hammer used to drive the nails
And did they reuse the nails like he did
Or were the authorities rich enough,
And of course they were, to pay
A blacksmith for new ones to waste each time.
Buried in a stone crypt, yes,
But how were the walls shaped and painted
And what shadows flickered there in the rushlight?
What of the mice that stole the dead’s gift of grain
Back to their nest, leaving their droppings in the dust?
He wondered this and more even during the hymns,
Even during the last doxology, even as he left
Nodding his goodbyes until he saw the new sign
At the end of the white stoned path, “For Sale.”
Homeward the fog lifted though
The creek bed still breathed
With damp chill air. Above
The clouds rested more lightly on the mountain top
And the sunlight filtering through
Gently, informally promised
A warm spring day. Back home
He fed and banked his fire
Against the cold night to come,
Grasped his hammer, feeling its heft
For work the next day, knowing it too heavy
For driving mere nails, and planned next Sunday
To walk up the valley along the creek
To see its headwaters at Copernican Spring
Named long ago also before memory began.
and that concludes the interlude. We now return to our regular programming. Coming soon: Re-read 4.0 Susanne Langer on Music, or How returning home feels so wondrous.
P.S. Here in a high mountain valley in SW Virginia we have >10″ snow.