Across the Line

For Elizabeth MacCallum and John Fraser

You learn patience from white pine:
everything the wind wanted to say
confined to a few gestures. When the wind
insists, all the branches point one way.

You learn anarchy from grass: in its forest
of columns, all more or less the same height,
distinguishing individual stems in the green and gold
distance is wonderful training for the sight.

You learn protection from granite, a patron
of the art of ancient, delicate lichen: you walk
carefully, and when the white-throated sparrow
sings, “Dear, sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada,” you don’t talk.

Seeing water beyond water, you learn loss:
you might never go there, and even here
there is more than you have time to love
in your brief life — look how deep, how clear!

July 8 1999