By Henry Taylor
In Henry Taylor's 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winning selection of poetry, The Flying swap, he writes the poems of a rustic squire -- immersing himself within the fantastic thing about the Blue Ridge mountains, pleasures for which a true farmer has neither the time or inclination. An anti-modernist in pursuit of states of grace, Taylor revels in things like a "frisbee floating like milkweed," women's palms and "the captivating previous songs of their illegible syllables." His affection for his zone is devoted and unmixed, and produces candy type in his reasonable pastoral.
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Additional info for The Flying Change: Poems
He sniffs at the grain in his hand, and cocks an ear toward a dry tree ringing with cicadas. He lifts an arm and points, saying what you already knew about the way you are trying to go; you nod and thank him, and think of going on, but only after you have stood and listened a little while longer to the soft click of the swaying grain heads soon to be cut, and the low voice, edged with dim prophecy, that settles down around you like the dust. Page 6 As on a Darkling Plain The years pile up, but there rides with you still, across old fields to which you have come back to invent your home and cultivate the knack of dying slowly, to contest your will toward getting death behind you, to find a hill where you can stop and let the reins go slack and parse the dark swerve of the zodiac, a face whose eyes find ways to hold you still.
He wheeled above me as I crossed a field; he screamed; I pulled a blade of grass, set it against my lips, and started screaming back. We held that conversation for half a mile. Once in a while he calls me out of the house and I comb a border for the right blade of grass. I used to wish I might learn what it is we mean to one another; now, I keep the noise we've mastered for itself alone, for glimpses of his descent toward dead elms, and a heart that will not mind when I am gone. Page 53 Not Yet The day may come when I will sit in a chair and stare myself slowly away, or stand still at the edge of a field or the end of an unfamiliar street grappling for the memory that might seem to make long life worthwhile, but today, almost dozing in noon sun, I blinked and looked down the driveway in time to see six deer come over the fence out of nowhere, their sharp feet barely printing the ground, and melt into woods toward absolute purity of style.
I stood pinching it, thumbing off earth crumbs; this has happened before, but not to me. In the days when men plowed the fields behind horses, sunup to sundown watching the furrow open up and lie over, three paces ahead of their feet, there was time to reach down midstride and pocket a recognized stone. At such times a man might fall to imagining, but why not stick to such facts as may be? It is broken at tip and base: botched, chipped at the end of a shaft-flight, or lost until it broke under the plow; and such facts as there are now include one hot afternoon when I stood sole-deep in soft ground, wondering at the four thousand years between the two men who had touched this stone, guessing how it was not to care for the magic I felt flowing out of it, but just to stand here, touching only an implement like a hoe or a pitchfork, watching the ground as I watched it, not thinking of the sun moving on as it moved over me, as it will when the rocks and the water are alone here again.
The Flying Change: Poems by Henry Taylor