In my aunt’s house, the milk jug’s beaded crochet cover
tickles the ear. We’ve eaten boiled things with butter.
Pie spiced like islands, dissolving in cream, is now
dissolving in us. We’ve reached the teapot of calm.
The table we sit at is fashioned of three immense
beech boards out of England. The minute widths of the year
have been refined in the wood by daughters’ daughters.
In the year of Nelson, I notice, the winter was mild.
But our talk is cattle and cricket. My quiet uncle
has spent the whole forenoon sailing a stump-ridden field
of blady-grass and Pleistocene clay never ploughed
since the world’s beginning. The Georgic furrow lengthens
in ever more intimate country. But we’re talking bails,
stray cattle, brands. In the village of Merchandise Creek
there’s a post in a ruined blacksmith shop that bears
a charred-in black-letter script of iron characters,
hooks, bars, conjoined letters, a weird bush syllabary.
It is the language of property seared into skin
but descends beyond speech into the muscles of cattle,
the world of feed as it shimmers in cattle minds.
My uncle, nodding, identifies the owners
(I gather M-bar was mourned by thousands of head).
It has its roots in meadows deeper than Gaelic,
my uncle’s knowledge. Farmers longest in heaven
share slyly with him in my aunt’s grave mischievous smile
that shines out of every object in my sight
in these loved timber rooms at the threshold of grass.
The depth in this marriage will heal the twentieth century.