Peat: a poem from my archive


Interviewer: Then you have had the freedom you wanted?

Carl Sagan: Yes… I was obviously less free when I was in love with someone…. But one’s not in love all the time. Apart from that… I’m free.

It’s not obvious at first,
the strange thickness of this cloud of witnesses,
the fecundity of the soil beneath your feet,
but then it appears, suddenly—
a firm embrace of damp earth,
soft like peat and rich
with the decay of broken branches
and leaves from winter’s past.

It’s not obvious at first,
the restriction of movement,
the dampening of sound—
the fading patter of your own pulse
and the slow nullification of will—
but then, suddenly, that earthward tug
becomes root and rhizome of assurance,
the pride of poppy, fern, kelp, oak.

It’s not obvious until later,
the quick sand efficiency of time,
broken fragments of shell and bone,
distancing memories of mother or sister,
helplessness of the soul against
the bite of saline, hyssop, iron, rue.
But what remains is the thickness of clouds,
witnesses of the first and the last.


© 2008

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