Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Moon rose full and without compromise through the good garden of leaves, here and there stars rode in flickering slicks of water and for certain the burly trees hunched toward each other, their dark mantles like the fur of animals touching. It was summer on earth so the prayer I whispered was to no god but another creature like me.
Where are you?
The wind stood still. Lightning flung its intermittent flares; in the orchard something wandered among the windfalls, licking the skins, nuzzling the tunnels, the pockets of seeds.
Where are you? I called and hurried out over the silky sea of the night, across the good garden of branches, leaves, water, down into the garden of fire.
This skin you wear so neatly, in which you settle so brightly on the summer grass, how shall I know it? You gleam as you lie back breathing like something taken from water, a sea creature, except for your two human legs which tremble and open into the dark country I keep dreaming of. How shall I touch you unless it is everywhere? I begin here and there, finding you, the heart within you, and the animal, and the voice. I ask over and over for your whereabouts, trekking wherever you take me, the boughs of your body leading deeper into the trees, over the white fields, the rivers of bone, the shouting, the answering, the rousing great run toward the interior, the unseen, the unknowable center.
They’re not like peaches or squash. Plumpness isn’t for them.They like being lean, as if for the narrow path. The beans themselves sit qui- etly inside their green pods. In- stinctively one picks with care, never tearing down the fine vine, never not noticing their crisp bod- ies, or feeling their willingness for the pot, for the fire.
I have thought sometimes that something―I can’t name it― watches as I walk the rows, accept- ing the gift of their lives to assist mine.
I know what you think: this is fool- ishness. They’re only vegetables. Even the blossoms with which they begin are small and pale, hardly sig- nificant. Our hands, or minds, our feet hold more intelligence. With this I have no quarrel.