He learns to dance among experts,
but it goes very heavily with him.
The music beats in a strange meter,
the words as difficult as water on rocks.
Still he plods on, stomping
when the masters step gracefully,
swaying his slow hands when he must.
They dance all night, song after song,
around the low, lit-up tree. He puts the steps
in good order only when each song ends.
With all the dancers sweating and breathing,
as they must after the faster footwork,
he scrambles down the hill to the shoreline.
He stands by the sea with stones in hand
and with his imperfect memory,
he improvises steps to the water’s rhythm.
He thinks it takes no great courage to dance
the foot’s rhythm, the body’s music.
He jumps in and out of the cold water
and lies on the gritty rocks, remembering:
a horse born on the other side of the world
learned to run so well it forgot it was a horse.
There is no way for me to learn to dig,
but always digging. Once I had to pry
below a rotten wall to get out all
my father built before I lived. It was
a wooden wall, decayed, but still in place.
It held a bank of yard by habit now,
or maybe all the earth held off its push
by contract, yearly signed with father’s sweat.
The digging lasted long. I was young,
and only just began to understand
the role of force in such a levered world.
I held the giant bar of steel upright
to wedge it in the gaps of wood,
then pushed to free the logs, and stacked
them in the grass. I did the finer work
with shovels and my hands: replacing all
the earth and eyeing level ground
to lay in stone, to see if it might hold.