Wednesday Poem

A Domestic Poem For Portia

This is all it is.
These pictures cast up in front of me
with the mind’s voracious energies.
Hence so many flies in this old granary.
I’ve become one of those blackened beef sides
hanging in a South American market so when I sing
to myself I dispel a black cloud around my mouth
and when Linda brings iced tea she thinks I’m only
a photo in National Geographic and drinks the tea
herself, musing he’s snuck off to the bar
and his five-year pool game.
This seems to be all it is.
Garcia sings Brown-eyed woman and red grenadine.
Some mother-source of pleasure so that the guitar
mutes and revolves the vision of her as she rinses
her hair bending thigh-deep in the lake, her buttocks appear
to be struggling by themselves to get out of that bikini
with a faint glisten of sun on each cheek top.
But when I talked to her she was thin in the head,
a magazine photo slipping through the air like
a stringless kite.
It’s apparent now that this is all there is.
This shabby wicker chair, music, the three PM
glass of red wine as a reward for sitting still
as our parents once instructed us. “Sit still!”
I want my head to go visit friends, traveling they call it
and without airports. Then little Anna up to her neck
in the lake for the first time, the ancient lineage
of swimming revealing itself in her two-year-old fat
body, eyes sparkle with awe and delight in this natural
house of water. Hearing a screech I step to the porch
and see three hawks above the neighbor’s pasture
chasing each other in battle or courtship.
This must be all there is.
At full rest with female-wet eyes becoming red wondering
falsely how in christ’s name I am going to earn
enough to keep us up in the country where the air
is sweet and green, an immense kingdom of water nearby
and five animals looking to me for food, and two daughters
and a mother assuming my strength. I courageously fix
the fence, mulch the tomatoes, fertilize the pasture —
a nickel-plated farmer. Wake up in the middle
of the night frightened, thinking nearly two decades
ago I took my vows and never dreamed I’d be responsible
for so many souls. Eight of them whispering provide.
This could very well be all that there is.
And I’m not unhappy with it. A check in the mail that will
take us through another month. I see in the papers
I’ve earned us “lower class”! How strange. Waiting
for Rachel’s foal to drop. That will make nine. Provide.
Count my big belly ten. But there’s an odd grace in being
and ordinary artist. A single tradition clipping the heads
off so many centuries. Those two drunks a millennium ago on
a mountainside in China — laughing over the beauty of the moment.
At peace despite their muddled brains. The male dog, a trifle
stupid, rushes through the door announcing absolutely nothing.
He has great confidence in me. I’m hanging onto nothing today and
with confidence, a sureness that the very air between our bodies,
the light of what we are, has to be enough.

by Jim Harrison
The Shape of the Journey
Copper Canyon Press, 1998