Ruffed Grouse

A gray winter’s sky

So ponderously heavy

You can reach up and touch it.

 

And all it composes

 

Is one haiku

Of snow.

 

Dim light dying.

 

The scorched earth

Of the long-extinguished blazes

Of autumn’s retreat from winter.

 

Oh evil day if I—

 

You are alone

With the only thought

That keeps you going.

 

Around ice-edged puddles.

 

Over frozen clods of earth.

 

You enter the woods—

Maybe the peace is here.

 

But there is only

 Punishing silence,

 

Naked desolation:

 

A vertical bone-yard,

Where the dormant are the dead

In phalanxes of armored buds.

 

And the heart would give

A summer’s hour

 

 For one woodnote,

 

A summer’s day

 

For an heirloom blanket

Of immaculate snow.

 

Around bramble,

Over fallen limbs.

 

Before a hillock

Your tread breaks

The beam of a sensor eye and—

 

A detonation!

 

An explosion of throbbing vitality

Charges your heart

Like a defibrillator,

 

And you recover to see

That innocent terrorist,

 

That Old Master

Of the art of surprise,

 

The ruffed grouse—

 

Its brown blur

Of hatched feathering

Pummeling the air before you

 

Swerving through the dark columns

 

Gliding into the silent

Frozen gloom beyond.

 

And that revelation

In your sin of despair:

 

That watchful endurer,

 

That little abiding Antaeus—

 

A backwoods phoenix

Bursting from the ashes

Of the apocalypse

Of a Michigan winter:

 

It can’t even know

That spring will return!

 

It can’t be assured

The redeemer is coming!

 

For that wakeful grouse

In the frozen understory

 

There is only this moment

In these plundered catacombs,

 

This darkening devastation.

 

There is only endurance

Of the eternal present

 

Without hope

 

And without despair.