There is a distance in the heart
and I know it well—
a somberness of winter branches,
dry stubble scarred with frost,
late of the sunburnt field.
Neither field, nor furrow,
nor woodlot patched with fences,
but something wilder: a distance
never cropped or plowed,
only by fire and the blade of the wind.
The distance is closer than
the broomswept hearth—
that time of year when leaves
cling to the bootsole,
are tracked indoors,
lie yellow on the kitchen floor.
Snow is a part of the distance,
cold ponds, and ice
that rings the cattle-trough.
Trees that are black at morning
are in the evening gray.
The distance lies between them,
a seed-strewn whiteness
through which the hunter comes.
Before him in the ashen snow-litter
of the village street
an old man makes his way,
bowed with sack and stick.
A child is pulling a sled.
The rest are camped indoors,
their damped fires smoking
in the early dusk.