II. Down From the Hills
Far from the ocean lived a lad who roamed about the land
And learned to make his presence scarce when there was work at hand.
He hiked the forests of the hills to set his fancy free,
Pretending that the wooded slopes were some great, frozen sea.
His father worked a blacksmith’s forge, the glowing metal hit
With hammering and strength of arm to make the iron fit
For many tasks as instruments that render work complete.
He fashioned plows and pruning hooks and shoes for horses’ feet.
Of mother’s gentle, guiding touch the boy had been denied.
They said it was at point of birth the blacksmith’s wife had died.
More than a few considered him a coarse, unruly child,
For while his father made their tools, he grew up stout and wild.
But, nonetheless, the father’s role was more than what it seemed.
Upon his knee at night, his son heard parables and dreamed
Of perfect things, invisible, beyond experience,
Of great dimension, fantasies contrived from common sense.
Young boys become young men although it’s hard to say just when,
And, on the way, in innocence, romantic thoughts begin.
One day, he sauntered through the hills with nothing much to do
When, in a vision, from the ground a perfect woman grew.
He could not see her clearly as she moved among the trees.
The breeze became her whisper, his companion at his ease.
As often as he waded in some pleasant summer’s dream,
He felt her fluid fingers on his ankles in the stream.
Her footsteps traced across the roots. Her willow waist would bend
In rhythm with the trunks of trees that bowed before the wind,
And slender ankles flashed along the dappled forest floor,
Approaching then receding as he sought to see her more.
He chased her all that summer, but her face he could not see.
No speed afoot could satisfy his curiosity.
At start of fall, that season when the leaves begin to turn,
His youthful pulse was quickened, and his chest began to burn.
Then came the day he lost all track of normal time and place,
Absorbed in contemplation of that fair but hidden face.
The vision pulled him far from home and into fading light.
At length, he stopped and kneeled to hear her breathing in the night.
He ran for days from tree to tree and bounded hedge to hedge
Through farms on lower slopes until he chanced on water’s edge.
The ocean wore its atmosphere, a gray and clouded hood,
And there his fervent running ceased, for there she clearly stood.