I know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You
The northern lights. I wouldn't have noticed them
if the deer hadn't told me
a doe her coat of pearls her glowing hoofs
proud and inquisitive
eager for my appraisal
and I went out into the night with electrical steps
but with my head held so proud
to share the animal's fear
and see what I had seen before
a sky flaring and spectral
greenish waves and ribbons
and the snow under a strange light tossing in the pasture
like a storming ocean caught
by a flaring beacon.
The deer stands away from me not far
there among the bare black apple trees
a presence I no longer see.
We are proud to be afraid
proud to share
the silent magnetic storm that destroys the stars
and flickers around our heads
like the saints' cold spiritual agonies
I remember but without the sense other light-storms
cold memories discursive and philosophical
in my mind's burden
and the deer remembers nothing.
We move our feet crunching bitter snow while the storm
crashes like god-wars down the east
we shake the sparks from our eyes
we quiver inside our shocked fur
we search for each other
in the apple thicket -
a glimpse, and acknowledgment
is enough and never enough -
we toss our heads and say goodnight
moving away on bitter bitter snow.
"I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You" from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992), © Hayden Carruth 1992, used by permission of the author and the publisher.