Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
He could have run a brookside mill,
A barny building, three old men
Working a twenty-foot soaked wheel
That dribbles out but drinks in
Power to turn one shaft, to tool
From country woods to wood a wooden
Use-bowl, dowel, or helve,
And happy there have been warden
Of such work and words, and selve
Himself, hoeing a nearby garden.
He could have raised apples, lived
Up ladders, in a mist of spray
Cursing the lost, boxing up the saved,
Washing apple's many enemies away.
He did. To prove it can be proved.
But his farming runs in and over
And out from book to brook to apple
And back again, till to discover
Emerson among the Baldwins, tell people
Apart from trees, is a leaf-dapple
In New England sunlight, names, names
Of his listeners flickering in fields
Of pages of chairs in classrooms.
Little by little the orchard yields,
Though the good shoulder lames.
Hungry for green, he sees ground-pine
Springing up underfoot, smells it,
Smiles, makes mystic Melville plain,
Sits Dreiser by Franklin on fence rails,
And wonders what century he's in.
He pounds in handy home-made pegs
To hold down larger transcendensions.
Not one to set up famous flags,
He is an explorer of five dimensions,
But needs more north for his own legs.
I think he's the happiest man I know,
And he doesn't. I measure myself by him
At distance, as worse and better do.
He wouldn't believe that he marks time
For anyone, or strides it so.
Now in his hale middle years he shouts
A huge joy from a ridge in Maine,
Buried in blueberries. The tax abates
Where a man's brush and bushes are his own.
It is his levy, not the state's,
Upon his own bones he pays, and glad to.
Hear him wake up the standing timber,
Joking or drawling his Thoreau or God.
He moves, he mills log and lumber,
Lecturing to build citizen-head.
Where autumn's red and spring's red
In some of the green, and the water-wheel
Pushes when the stream is full, he could
Have run a brookside mill, and did.
His lathe has grained the grain of wood.