Enter into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him and bless his name.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth:
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
When I came to live here, fifty years into my life
in this valley cut by the river
all I knew was wandering, but this
the Driftless Region, is what I breathe and drink now.
Today, in bleak midwinter, the earth glazed
and dreaming of the long light, my days grow short.
I recall the taste of sunflower, prickly pear
and chokecherry. Mint, wild licorice, and grape.
The rank tastes of flood and choking wildfire.
A thousand years ago, the taste of water here,
the honey in the trees, the flowers and the grasses,
how the air tasted, the morning dew
favored by the deer, fog on the skin,
a blackcap bursting on the tongue.
The flesh of goat, of deer, of bear and elk,
when we were still on speaking terms
with the crow, the rattler and the coyote.
Bones of our horses and dogs are buried here.
We shovel the droppings from the barn
and mix it with compost from our table–
it takes our time, our blood, and feeds us.
I know the taste of okra from the garden,
sweet corn, tomatoes and arugula,
Brussels sprouts and blue Italian beans
and these stunted carrots—the soil not right—
pale orange gnomes from Peer Gynt’s wildest nightmares.
I know apples, rhubarb, pears and little plums.
Video from Heartsongs presentation, February 13, 2014.
See Acknowledgments for details.
Today, I bless the fences fallen into disrepair,
Bless the rainwater in the cistern,
Bless the long throat of the well, 500 feet.
Bless these twisted implements turned to rust,
old Irv’s sweat transmuted into apples.
Bless the flicker, nuthatch and the chickadee.
And bless you and you and you tonight,
and most of all bless you, my son.
Do not subdue and do not have dominion.
You are husband to this land, and steward;
enter these broken gates with thanksgiving.
We have brought you the old songs tonight,
if your friends and you would listen. Sing
most of them the same way, come up with
new tunes for the others. Just keep them breathing.
In autumn, when flocks are passing overhead,
take the river, and greet them with a joyful noise.
for Orion, at the Winter Solstice