Words from a rugged master

Words from a rugged master

Words from a rugged master

Tonight I felt like sharing three of my favourite Jim Harrison poems.  He was able to capture incredible beauty and inspire a deep love of the natural world in a way that was simple, pure and raw.  I love the powerful combination of grit and tenderness in his words.  


Seven in the Woods

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down.
Yesterday I was seven in the woods,
a bandage covering my blind eye,
in a bedroll Mother made me
so I could sleep out in the woods
far from people. A garter snake glided by
without noticing me. A chickadee
landed on my bare toe, so light
she wasn’t believable. The night
had been long and the treetops
thick with a trillion stars. Who
was I, half-blind on the forest floor
who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight
years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.


Most of my life was spent
building a bridge out over the sea
though the sea was too wide.
I’m proud of the bridge
hanging in the pure sea air. Machado
came for a visit and we sat on the
end of the bridge, which was his idea.
Now that I’m old the work goes slowly.
Ever nearer death, I like it out here
high above the sea bundled
up for the arctic storms of late fall,
the resounding crash and moan of the sea,
the hundred-foot depth of the green troughs.
Sometimes the sea roars and howls like
the animal it is, a continent wide and alive.
What beauty in this the darkest music
over which you can hear the lightest music of human
behavior, the tender connection between men and galaxies.
So I sit on the edge, wagging my feet above
the abyss. Tonight the moon will be in my lap.
This is my job, to study the universe
from my bridge. I have the sky, the sea, the faint
green streak of Canadian forest on the far shore.

Death again

Let’s not get romantic or dismal about death.

Indeed it’s our most unique act along with birth. 

We must think of it as cooking breakfast,

it’s that ordinary.  Break an egg into two bowls

or break a bowl into two eggs.

Slip into a coffin after the fluids have been drained or,

better yet, slide into the fire. 

Of course it’s a little hard to accept your last kiss, your last drink, your last meal

about which the condemned can be quite particular

as if there could be a cheeseburger sent by God.  

A few lovers sweep by the inner eye, but it’s mostly a placid lake at dawn, mist rising, a solitary loon call,

and staring into the still, opaque water.  We’ll know as children again all that we are destined to know, that the water 

is cold and deep, and the sun penetrates only so far. 

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