In the songs of my homeland
Children swing forlornly and wait
For brothers, or fathers
Who never come over the hill
Soldiers swill and brawl
And brag of windy, swift horses,
And wonder which alien sun
Will bleach their bones.
Girls sing gaily on river banks
While boys longingly watch.
“Lift my apron,” they tease,
“You’ll find a lovely squirrel!”
Everyone sings. Always.
They sing alone, or in pairs,
Or in large choruses of uncontrollable,
Irrepressible sheer vital will.
They sing of witches, and the Forest Mother
Who sows pine trees on the dunes
To keep the sea from stealing land
Carved out in bitter winters.
Oh, it’s barley, rye and the moon,
Bees, wasps and deer flies.
And at night, carven doorways
Keep the good luck in and the bad luck out.
They sing of death, and how it comes.
Softly or swaggering, expected or not,
And nightingales that sing full-throated,
Heedful or not.