It is evening here at the house.
I lived an appalachian epic today through the rain and the first line of it was Asheville Craigslist farm pages, one that read: "SHEEP. Can go in freezer or be used as pets."
The refrain was something about driving ethereal Appalachian back roads because 1.the school (insert the I) wants farm animals and 2. I (with no other pretense) have been craving the kind of adventure that took me alone along drizzly fields and ridgelines Kurosawa couldn't have dreamed up while crossing switchbacks with names like "Papaw Elmer's Drive." The kind of adventure that would have me chasing castrated sheep across barnyards with a pregnant teenage mother,(whose parents were watching TV in the trailer), and quieting them with WWF neckholds while she explained that their testicles had not fallen off yet, but they would, and she hoped the children would not be too scared by that.
The stanzas were about a hitchhiking mother and toddler on the back floor of the van after they had gotten caught in the downpour still far from home, farmers' directions that read like Rumi, "sweep to the left," "keep following straight then sweep right," "there's a curve then it straightens and it curves again. Follow that." Bawdy black rams, skittish white ewes, fleeces sticky and damp having just come in from pasture, red hens, (lay real well and right personable too), the rabbit breeder's wife who smelled like sage leaves after the rain and whose face was a summer peach, all sweetness from inside. She couldn't have been more than 19, I thought when I first saw her, but no, her children were as old as mine.
I lived it all and saved it all like a child collecting pebbles at the shore, pockets wet and heavy on the ride home. Like James Herriot making tea over the aga stove, watching unpredictable weather pass over the moors.
The epic is wrapping up something like this:
in the wood living room of the school
baby rabbits in a box
by the fireplace
nursing goats' milk from an eyedropper.
a lost turtle,
the sheep in my heart but maybe not in my budget,
a tiny white moth with threadbare wings
I found barely alive at the end and have kept right beside me
on his deathbed where I type:
an old mottled brown copy of Whittier's poems:
“Oh, the outward hath gone! - but, in glory and
The SPIRIT surviveth the things of an hour;
Unchanged, undecaying, its Pentecost flame
On the heart's secret altar is burning the same !”