Today's poem is by Stephen C. Behrendt

Leaving the Land

These will be the last purple coneflowers,
oxeye daisies and wild black-eyed Susans,
the final spiderwort and spurge
we shall see in our meadow.
The coyotes have already left off
singing in the night, in the pasture,
their passing marked now only by scat
on the rutted driveway;
the deer are fewer, leaner,
more skittish along the creek line
as traffic swells on four new lanes
and sleek-pelted bodies line the shoulder,
heads askew, sides rent, tongues lolling.

We held out long, loving the land:
its gentle slopes and swoops,
its rise to the east toward Stevens Creek
where acres of houses stand now in cornfields' stead
and sewer lines gouge the hard red clay.

Now it's time to go, to draw up roots
while earthmovers drag their underslung bellies
across fields to the south, the east,
remarking the elegant eccentricities of what was:
the dry watercourses and shattered cottonwoods,
rusted barbed wire and cast-off baler parts.

Time to gather seed heads, pods,
store them in jars to season new ground,
excite new meadows into bloom
when we find them, ease into the new land,
unfold a new home into other spaces, other fields.

Time to know, too, that much stays behind:
bulbs we planted on sharp fall days,
dogs and cats we buried in all seasons,
the old gelding who sleeps beneath the north pasture
on the little rise that takes the first sun,
lilacs we finally coaxed into bloom
when the deer left off tipping them by night.

Developers will strip this land, reshape it
to squeeze in little homes, shoulder to shoulder,
plat it, pave and stripe in civil regularity.
We will know it by its address, by what it was,
when we pass by in other seasons,
and will bless these years in silence,
remembering the moon rising here, the owls calling,
the coyote voices ringing in the fields
like so many bells, clear and bright,
their haunting sounds hanging in the still and empty air.

Copyright © 2006 Stephen C. Behrendt All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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