By way of further introducing readers to my book Gathered Rain, recently published, I thought it would be fun to share some of the stories behind a few of the pieces it contains, to perhaps highlight some strands and fragrances of meaning.
As I mentioned before, in a previous post, I began this book in college in the mid- to late 80s. Most of the pieces in it have gone through many revisions over the years, and some few are rather recent.
Today’s topic is actually the third poem in the book, being the second in the seasonal cycle that provides the overall context for Gathered Rain (the first poem in the book is meant as a kind of koan to introduce the mystical stage on which things unfold). This poem is about an Ox that I used to see many years ago in a small fenced pasture along a dirt road near my home. The road was itself a kind of mystic scroll on which nature had written many revelations of subtle insights that used to unfold for me when I would walk or jog along that road in the early morning, during the winter snows, the heavy, humid Indiana summers, or the sweet promise-leaden spring. The road was knitted comfortably between the fields and small squares of maple, oak and hickory woodlands. It was lined with goldenrod, morning glory, ubiquitous grasses, thistle, chicory, and many other plants in a raucous community of color and texture. Of course, during the winter, it was covered with smooth, faceless snow or hard, amorphous ice.
At any rate, this particular Ox always caught my attention because he would stand, still as a stone, chewing, and watching me in an utterly calm and stolid posture. I’d often stop and approach the fence and gaze at him gazing at me. He had a sense of peace that flowed over me like cool water in the midst of the intensely hot and humid summer, or like a quiet fire in a massive stone hearth in winter. He meant a lot to me and I attempted in this poem to give some form to this.
An ox in the field stands
Like a mountain.
Seasons pass around him,
rain, snow, ice, sun,
All around him time flows.
Still he stands,