August 14, 2008

James Ragan

RICHMOND HILL

It is my habit to walk a hill until it levels out
or until it thinks it has seen enough of sloth
and the way I map one foot flat in front of the other,
each step shorter, wider than the first, a platypus of sorts,
whose rhythm like its waddle I have borrowed since birth.
It is my habit to walk a hill until the sky falls near
and one believes he’s risen to the heavens
where the Queen’s deer sprint past sprigs and crockets,
and night hawks graze above the Orchard House with such ascension,
heaven knows what royal robes the moon must wear.
I might sooner run downhill to find my level
because the road that rises up to meet me has no will
and bends to unimpede me like a gifting uncle,
wise and wily but in matters of frailty, unskilled.
I might even learn to hug the hill when it pretends to slope
at every lurch beyond the Terrace bole and heather
as if it grieved for the mind descending and pulls the eye
back toward some higher view the road intended,

as when my breath searches for a swig of air,
there rises in the valley a swill of smoke, high on the heath
and racing, I rabble thirst until the eyes tumble
downridge to the nightingale’s meadow
where the field edges past the bunchgrass into a cattle grove.
There between the sparrowfall and woodsmoke like a rime
that winds along the center of a verse, the river bends
as is its habit when followed by so many feet as harrowed as mine.
And while it’s not my nature to steal my way into the low roads
and fox lands where the marsh pine hugs the bracken,
I have followed bends until the journey’s end surprises
and like the hawk above the Gothic turrets on the Old Main rising
high into its lofty fields of sky, I have wandered the Thames
from Richmond Hill to Kensington for the order nature gives my mind
and of the shorter roads have sought the longer one to climb.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007