Ox Cart Man
By Donald Hall
In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,
counting the seed, counting
the cellar's portion out,
and bags the rest on the cart's floor.
He packs wool sheared in April, honey
in combs, linen, leather
tanned from deerhide,
and vinegar in a barrel
hooped by hand at the forge's fire.
He walks by his ox's head, ten days
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,
and the bag that carried potatoes,
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose
When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year's coin for salt and taxes,
and at home by fire's light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year's ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.
Belatedly, a poem from Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in last Sunday's Washington Post Book World. Pinsky writes, "Imagination loves borderlands: the uncertain terrain between myth and report, the dark trails where Sasquatch roams, the misty surface of Loch Ness." He discusses the appeal "in using humble detail to fill in an abstract formula...the place where fable meets everyday material, the similar place where pattern meets particular details." These characterize for him Hall's poem, in which "lovingly specific details fill in a methodical pattern of Yankee shrewdness...he presents the details with such precision that a reader may scarcely notice the ritual element of formula, or the sly country element of an admirable, possibly hyperbolic yarn-spinning."
My July 4th was much taken up with laundry and thunderstorms. I got a taste of what people here have been living with for weeks, though thankfully a very small one -- my cable has been out since early afternoon, I've had to change my settings to sign on with AOL again; I swear some higher power is trying to talk me into not dropping it...one of my first plans upon getting home was going to be looking into alternate dial-up options for times and places where I can't get a wireless or cable connection. Because of this I am very, very, very behind on comments and everything else that requires me to be online. But I am not complaining, because we did not lose power, and given the number of hours that I had the washer and dryer going, this is a great blessing. It took six full loads but the trip laundry is done! Now everything goes back into piles to be packed for the beach this weekend!
And the rest of my time will be taken up with Bar Mitzvah stuff. The invitations arrived -- they look lovely -- but I have to get the addresses printed and the envelopes mailed before we leave, and what I thought would be a reasonably easy thing to do at Kinko's is apparently more complicated than I thought. (We gave up on calligraphy, not only because of the expense but because of the time...and if we print labels, we can print them again for thank you notes, and I'd rather have my son spend more time on the notes and less on the addressing.) We have to work out flowers and centerpieces and a bunch of stuff with the shul...I do not want to get an ulcer over what is supposed to be a celebration! At least parents were civil...I got the expected irritation at my lack of gratitude and irritation at having my house invaded and redecorated, but since the kids were obviously sincerely distressed over the comforter issue when my parents took them to the pool, it stayed at a certain level, and everyone is trying to behave since we all have to live in the same five-room beach condo for a week.
We all had dinner together after I folded most of the laundry while watching two episodes of Brideshead Revisited (am determined to finish before we go to the beach; have two episodes left). I don't actually much like Charles, I realize, I find Sebastian and Julia both more interesting and more sympathetic, am sort of amused by Charles' continual displacement of his feelings (marrying a peer of Julia's because she vaguely reminds him of Julia who in turn reminds him of Sebastian, being contemptuous of and considering himself so unlike those "pansies" who acknowledge that they prefer men and choose to live as passionate deviant outsiders). I really must read the book because there's fascinating insider-outsider stuff going on with no woman really passing muster, certainly not Julia or Cordelia who both suffer from being Catholic, not Lord Marchpane's foreign mistress and not Charles' unreasonably detested wife either. But first I need to watch the ending. We half-watched the DC fireworks on TV with the sound turned off -- between Elmo and Michael Bolton appearing at the concert, we could take no more -- and read some more of Greenwitch. Older son wants to read on ahead alone, but I won't let him; he'll only spoil it for apaulled and younger son the way he did with the last two Harry Potter books.
Since I have no July 4th fireworks to share, here are some post-game fireworks from the Frederick Keys game we attended last month...
Wish I were feeling more patriotic but the current administration is really killing most patriotic feeling in me. I remember when I was a kid, I thrilled to July 4th. I want my country back.