Last night the geese came back,
From the blossom of the rising moon down
To the black pond. A muskrat
Swimming in the twilight saw them and hurried
To the secret lodges to tell everyone
Spring had come.
And so it had.
By morning when I went out
The last of the ice had disappeared, blackbirds
Sang on the shores. Every year
The geese, returning,
Do this, I don’t
The curtains opened and there was
An old man in a headdress of feathers,
Leather leggings and a vest made
From the skin of some animal. He danced
In a kind of surly rapture, and the trees
In the fields far away
Began to mutter and suck up their long roots.
Slowly they advanced until they stood
Pressed to the schoolhouse windows.
I don’t know
Lots of things but I know this: next year
Flows over the starting point I’ll think I’m going to
Drown in the shimmering miles of it and then
One or two birds will fly me over
As for the pain
Of others, of course it tries to be
Abstract, but then
There flares up out of a vanished wilderness, like fire,
Still blistering: the wrinkled face
Of an old Chippewa
Smiling, hating us,
Dancing for his life.