04 January 2006

Maurice Manning

[from A Companion for Owls: Being the Commonplace Book of D. Boone Long Hunter, Back Woodsman, &c. by Maurice Manning]


Arriving, we walked down as if we were hill-born
and bred to know only hills, so that the end of hills
was surprising, rolling out before us like a woman's
skirts gathered and fanned across her lap, like loosely
folded fabric, like calico: spotted and patchworked
as if some big-fingered god had gently smudged
the world he made. Our horses and our dogs paused.
We had not expected glory and it stopped us dead,
which is not altogether uncommon: Moses spying
Canaan, for example, must have first stood silent
before waving his people ahead, the land smothered
in half shadow, half-light like velvet, and steadied
himself, one hand firm on his staff, the other reaching
to his brow, wiping his gray hair back. So I walked
into Kentucky barefooted and clumsy as if I had
sneaked out of school to cheat my lessons and come
upon a girl waiting for me behind a beech tree,
wondering where on earth I'd been. I stood still
on the invisible line and spit across it onto the new
map, making my first mark, wondering if I could
keep such a dark and bloody secret to myself.

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