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Before dark and after, p.1
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       Before Dark, and After, p.1

           Bernard Fancher
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Before Dark, and After

  Before Dark, and After

  A Collection of Poems


  Bernard Fancher

  Copyright 2012 by Bernard Fancher

  All rights reserved

  without the author’s permission.


  Table of Contents


  First Light


  Storm Warning


  Going Home

  Arid Dream

  Aural Journey

  A Field Guide to the Birds

  Fox Grapes

  Feeding Horses

  In Praise of Existential Awareness

  Full Moon Fever

  Between the Lightning and the Lightning Bug


  Early Spring


  Northern Night

  Once on a Blue Moon


  Our Walk, First Thing this Morning



  Snow Moon

  The Leonid Meteor Shower

  Shy of Heaven


  Riding Blind at Night

  Three Crows

  I Went for a Walk

  Midnight on Moss Lake

  Before Dark




  Beneath the tree where the young buck nuzzled

  The ground picking green acorns out of dried leaves,

  I sat in the half tire swing only moments away

  From learning this place was mine, a few feet

  Away from where the young deer years later stood

  Entirely unaware of my ghost presence, close enough

  To reach out and, if not touch, at least scare him;

  I stand in the open doorway at the front of the house

  In midwinter now, considering the doe

  Who stood entranced before my first fire, wondering

  If she might be the granddame of the young buck

  Come back years later like an homage, or echo.

  Something always antedates something else,

  Making memory or imagination or pure dreaming

  The stuff of stories and poems and plays;

  From the center of this same tree

  Thoughts tossed blithely off return. I embrace

  Them below an arc of limbs, rooted to this place.


  First Light

  What makes me think to go again

  to where the field bends back from the sky—

  perhaps to recover a lost conceit of myself

  as a modern-day Ponce de León

  visiting some part of the world for the first time?

  Ten years on, a red fox lies perfectly still on its side

  as if sleeping sound in the hay. The dogs rush ahead

  remembering the ridge-top chance meeting with a tom

  turkey coming, some years ago, the opposite way.

  Shouldn’t they anticipate such a meeting again?

  Admitting life is a mystery, what is to be lost

  in the expectation of reliving past experience?

  After a moment’s further reflection I suppose

  that’s unrealistic, and instead of permitting their untamed pursuit

  of presentiment, I call them back, kneeling to pet them

  and so preserve the vital element of our surprise.

  I remember the herd of deer discovered a dozen years ago now

  gathered at first light round the still-hidden sump of a spring,

  and rising, proceed slowly, consciously keeping

  the dogs at my heel, climbing to what seems the top of the world—

  there to observe, just below us, the startled ghosts of those deer

  standing still, all but frozen.

  I clap my hands, once, and they disappear.




  the deer flicker through trees

  reversing the process of transubstantiation

  going from here to gone.

  Beau is halfway across the field before I see him

  hell-bent to follow

  shadow into darkness

  becoming shadow himself



  Storm Warning

  These insubstantial snowflakes drifting on air

  may or may not be the precursor of heavier snow.

  All ready

  I envision the fields full, the electric lines

  laden, the tall narrow trees lining the woods

  themselves lined

  standing like impassive dark sentries,

  the lengths of their windward sides exposed,

  plastered white.

  I see myself on skis first time all winter,

  the dogs plowing ahead, breaking trail

  on an old logging road

  until in one place we step aside and listen to nothing,

  hearing in stealth a silence more meaningful

  than words.

  I detect the dogs’ panting, my own dissipating breaths.

  From a void evolves a lone squirrel’s incessant

  soft clucking.

  Under all, the howl of wind imposes its presence,

  approaching unseen, making ready, biding its own

  unmeasured time.



  Fire deflects off shear rock

  behind where I stand

  before the open beyond.

  Like water,

  sparks fall from the precipice

  or float drifting off to the sky.

  By and by, I turn away

  not to burn

  or to drown

  but to quietly sleep

  in a soft crevice

  of warm stone and low flame,

  only dreaming a dream,

  a phantasm of what I might do.


  Going Home

  What waits beyond

  the hill in the entire

  unlit land of open fields

  and dark woods

  is nothing other than

  a place to come home to.

  Deer stand frozen

  alongside the road,

  eyes liquid green

  before the car’s passing.

  The fields absorb starlight

  as the woods absorb the fields,

  while just beyond the far window

  a light warms my door.


  Arid Dream

  What strange bird flies

  circling the dark void of the back field?

  Hemmed by woods on three sides,

  compelled to revolve a black hole

  in the landscape, it utters by turns

  a plaintive, solitary Gaaack,

  seeming to count the completion of each circle

  before lapsing again into silence.

  I imagine a lost seabird, maybe an albatross

  (whose young lie somewhere dead, filled to bursting

  with plastic scavenged doodads)

  searching for its mate, perhaps thinking,

  birdlike, the dark plain beneath its wings a safe harbor

  it dare not touch for fear of disturbing

  the dream it skirts yet distrusts to settle upon;

  so continually it circles a vast field of night—

  nearly frantic, it seems, and inconsolable—

  waiting to hear a reply forever lodged in my throat.


  Aural Journey

  You discover yourself

  risen from snow, floating

  like a
wisp of mist

  levitating in cold moonlight

  borne aloft,

  propelled by disassociation,

  floating diagonally

  above wire-enclosed fields

  barbed with the subliminal threat

  of capture.

  But not even trees

  in the woods impede entrance, rather

  your wraith presence opens

  and closes around them,

  and so you pass through

  a dreamt realm of your own being,

  being what you dream

  and dream to become.



  A Field Guide to the Birds

  Scarlet tanager, indigo bunting,

  green heron.

  The words are jewels

  to the mind, illuminating something elusive.

  A cardinal steps about on a sleeping lilac

  draped with Virginia creeper.

  Snow lies deep in the yard, a little early for bluebirds.

  I look to the dead limb stretched above the kitchen sink window,

  seeing not even a flicker

  of pileated woodpecker in the still embalmed trees.

  An old Peterson’s field guide

  reveals the persistence of desire (or obsession) for knowing

  what’s what.

  Is that a bob-white or bobolink

  imprinted on the curled green cloth cover?

  Never mind, I remind myself, recognizing it for the guide

  it is, realizing everything we know belongs to chance, opportunity

  and change.


  Fox Grapes

  As I go about the task of eliminating weeds from the garden,

  vines like brown ropes secured to the ground

  cover the condensery across the road from the barn;

  they covertly make ready to issue forth green tentacles of new growth

  that will curl inevitably about every part of a place I’ve given up on.

  It is nearly time to till, and yet still I work on hands and knees

  breaking down brittle stems of dead burdocks,

  collecting their clinging and yet dispersing seed balls

  in a determined attempt to stave off the next generation.

  Only mid-April, but already too warm for the dogs

  who lie raspily breathing in the pussy willow’s indeterminate shadow,

  the weather has gone in one day from chill to prematurely subtropical.

  I reach over the dog lying nearest to me,

  allowing my forearm to brush his fur coat. Allowing it too,

  he merely stretches a hind leg, opening and again immediately closing

  his eyes. A stick-tight has grabbed hold of my skin,

  clinging like a disembodied pincer, not wanting to let go.

  Isn’t that the way of us all?

  I ask myself the question in all sincerity, knowing

  I am blessed. Looking up to see the wind pushing clouds,

  I vocalize contentment and pleasure at once, practicing a frugal austerity.

  I tell myself and the dogs: Even here, with each thing, we must decide

  what to keep and what to discard.


  Feeding Horses

  for Vicki

  After feeding the pigs,

  and stopping by Mura’s for hay,

  we watched the sun

  set as we rode the dirt road home.

  Racing darkness,

  we threw bales from the pickup,

  heaving them to your horses

  while through the paddock door

  I watched Fox Hill bathed in twilight

  and imagined a fox

  skirting the delineation of efflorescent field

  and wood, hunting something.

  If such interludes comprise eternity,

  were we to live forever,

  I could not ever be happier.

  Yet I suspect the best we can hope

  is to live as we can

  until the only thing left is to die.

  When that time comes

  I want to be the first to go.

  But if I am left,

  leave me at least the image of you

  standing, enclosed by a barn

  open to the world, flinging hay to your horses,

  chaff and hair flying, wild with wind.


  In Praise of Existential Awareness

  The rhubarb is in a state of wrinkled emergence

  behind the barn and tilled garden.

  A few days ago, I picked a single asparagus spear

  and laid it down in the grass, for later.

  This morning, I heard the happy chortling of a house wren

  for the first time since late last summer.

  Bees buzz within a cloud of cherry tree blossoms

  in the front yard.

  The bluebirds are already prolific; a clutch of four

  sky blue eggs nestle deep in a cup of dead grass

  behind the slanting door of the nest-box out back.

  Meanwhile, a vine and weed and paper trash fire

  smolders unattended in the half dug gravel pit,

  sending a blue acrid plume drifting up

  from behind the low north-side slope East of here.

  Not that it matters. Or maybe it does.

  I seem to recall the Buddha’s teaching:

  everything exists behind or beyond or below something else,

  and so wait for all to be revealed, at the world’s infinite leisure.


  Full Moon Fever

  for Nicole

  Driving at dusk

  out of Albany light

  and dust, I pass by Crescent

  and Half Moon, yearning

  for backcountry.

  Somewhere off a railroad

  cul de sac

  under a hillside of yuppie horse farms

  in infringing darkness

  I park along a solitary track

  and walk up through a wildflower field

  soaked with starlight

  under a floating full moon

  rising alone among transparent

  cirrus, composing

  in my circular head this incipient poem

  for you my sleeping love

  three hundred miles away.


  Between the Lightning and the Lightning Bug

  The difference between the right word and the almost right word

  is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.

  —Mark Twain

  I perceive it before becoming entirely awake

  as it bounds against the canopy, let in by a window

  to flash repeatedly across the cathedral ceiling

  in an apparent effort to get back out.

  Each time it ignites—so successfully disguising itself

  as something animate

  that I wish to rise and go as well

  into the outer darkness—the conviction reforms

  and re-establishes the idea my mind has lit upon,

  imagining a rare display of Northern Lights descending

  over our lower latitude, to grace all who would see.

  Thus I am enticed and ready to embrace possibility

  as I exit the back door, feeling inside

  attuned to the pulse of an unworldly presence.

  I don’t expect God, at least not to reveal himself so blatantly,

  so am not disappointed to find an aurora of restrained lightning

  bucking up against clouds

  lying barely an inch or two above the polar horizon.

  Once, long ago, riding down an unlit back road

  I encountered that very same light in miniature

  where a solitary firefly

  pulsing below the leaves of a low hanging branch

  illuminated its place in the surrounding darkness.

/>   Perceiving a wonderful thing then, I decide now again

  to wait and watch in amazement.



  Clumped snow

  streaks the window view.

  The sky is gray.

  Near trees stand dark

  against the midrange horizon.


  The falling/fallen snow

  merging with dusky woods

  in an indefinable distance

  of hills somewhere across the creek

  becomes zone by imperceptible zone

  the value of pure night.


  Early Spring

  The beasts of the field are still

  in their stillness. They sleep

  under the thin rim of a moon,

  breathing air cooled in the hills

  and thin rills of dim meadows

  where far distant barn windows

  cast pinpricks of light across a dark valley.

  Field mice and moles

  hid in the nearby ravened wood

  lie safe from both hovering falcon

  and more decisive horned owl

  which, yet being beings, are still beasts, after all.

  Shall we count the spotted fawn

  lying ensconced in the grass?

  What of the missing doe mother?

  Is ‘beast’ a damning or exculpatory word?

  Perhaps ‘fox’ describes

  the intention of thought more precisely,

  its already shifting presence conforming to intractable space

  at once both above and under a log.

  Just yesterday, I found seven hairless infant

  rabbits, a half dozen which fit securely

  side by side in the palm of one hand.

  I wish to believe they lie still

  safely composed where I left them,

  tucked in a furry burrow

  under a bleached, split-locust fence post.


  Maybe fox, coyote, or bear

  deserve praise after all for conforming

  our vague impressions to imprecise, prancing shadows.

  In moonlight, for moons and moons

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