by Harold Janzen
The wild geese drawn in formation, a single identity as if on fire fly west into the prairie’s flesh and blood. The sun going down ignites the brown surrounding—turning the toiled fields; touching the leafless bluffs; the sky itself a tragedy ablaze. The geese come making noise, flock upon flock, delirious with their honking; warning themselves to no heed; their brouhaha headfirst into the inferno. Each cooperative of birds shoved by the flock that forms from behind, satin wings grooving the air—pushing, pushing, as if it was a poetry honed to the end of the world instead of a season.
The woodsman pauses under the influence of the charismatic racket—the evidence of his spoil in deadwood stumps; the dormant purse of living trees that hold the earth around him. He stands at last in his work space leisurely surveying the time of year. The geese keep on cajoling their spiel; the volcanic sun drowning the mesmerized exodus.
The woodsman carried his saw as he walked along the clear-cut trail that was initially manicured by the white tailed deer. He had retooled the path to meet the demands of a more uptight animal pushing a wheel barrow. He worried over his supply of heating wood—was foraging daily for his immediate needs. He walked through the kindled charm of the auburn woods; captivated by the irreplaceable soul that stuns his awareness.
The woodsman is bound to the quivering branch—he has marked his way— and the wild geese are done with their animated struggle. The sun, out of sight and out of mind, shines on covering an alternate diversion. The surge of kinship in the western skies drains into the pondered; into the deeply hearted pit of the woodsman’s gut. He swallowed hard imbibing from the water that he carried trying to squelch another fire altogether.
Steeped in deep silence
The aftermath of Monday’s winter storm, a pristine white scouting the hard wooded landscape, held to its time, stopped in its tracks. All of the natural paths magically vanished. A silent thought waiting for a door to open.
A big oak thrust above the still-hunt with arms planed in all directions. No one was coming; everything pulled to its frozen cover. Nothing could be raised from this dead impression. Other bare-boned trees held rank around the omnipotent captain pointing every-which way out of the riparian bluff.
A primordial crow in black ink punctuates on the spotless page; comes from a corner of the world out of nowhere to write a haiku. Out of the blues its mythical breath stinks of the carrion’s frown; in its beak the tale of yesterday’s dog—old man winter breathing down its neck.
Off in the crows head a rifle shot echoes—not a real gun but a memory in a mason jar. Black dishrag he comes to settle on the top of the big oak. He sits there an oddment on a walking stick grown directly from the tree. A slight wind rocked idly its weight and was gone.
The crow in its true state gave the landscape a long level look; the sun, off obsidian glanced. No human flesh stretched over the white escape; nothing close and personal. The sky like blue on black ice; a creek, its banks blown full—its meander hidden, the obvious and the unknown depths of soul unfolded.
The crow could not remember names, all croaks. The sun spun its yarns. It was near but not quite yet, the snow still held fast with what’s left of the season. The crow high and lonesome a rebirth of moments sits in its mystical bruise.
In time the sun slanted the shadows that ran through the middle of the woods—through the resilient cold, edged and almost final; the curvature of the turning forges into the unapproachable source of the illusive heat; a peculiar wind blowing on the coals. The crow watches the west go blood red.
The crow contemplates the faceless stand rung deep in the timber—that and the done-with that grew this great oak. So many winters alone, the crow imagined—the cold tied like a tongue to an anvil.
When the steel finally rang and the creek would run at the mouth; the trees to their swollen buds, the crow exercised his being on the following morning. He lifted and left; there to the coming green—wings brushing calligraphy against the blue horizon into the assembly of the stolen world, a needle point disappearing without question.
She was thin and lacking in detail. She practically disappeared, while seating herself, into the simple perspective of a stick drawn chair. And there she would sit without description—without any need for report; unbeknownst and by design, as if yet but not quite, the hidden observer; almost.
There was set beside this anomaly of parallel lines a table with pencil thin legs; and behind this a window—a blank slate for a game of X and O’s. Two horizontal slits were her closed eyes as she sat in repose. Presently closed, might it be added, to help the portrait artist quantify her whereabouts because her eyes, when fully open, were overlarge and spaced widely to balance the weight.
Around this entire lineage the great wheel turned. With spokes radiant, a rectangle of light cut through the window and burned into the strict straight lines of the room. She sat half lidded now; an animal just peering over her horizon. The crossed bars of the game board projected slightly distorted on the hardwood floor. Her hands were set palms down on the pressed starch of her lap. And as she was partially exposed, possibly opiate induced—was it her own doing? Languidly she spelled herself a shell without enough meat, unable to pry her lids further apart, looking over the top of the easel that plumbed her portrait.
The artist had placed upon the raw boards of the table a simple meal—a thin slice, a still-life of stale bread on a rustic plate that exposed a slight chip that he was intending on incorporating into the jaded scene. And beside all that, an unlit candle; its wick black and bent, asking the question partially interred in wax.
The artist intended to sketch a kind of spirit world into his project. He turned the portrait upside down; both sides now and then righted again. He realized an inward dwelling that he had not intended.