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Joan Murray: Vermont and the Hills and the Valleys (poem)

 

Vermont and the Hills and the Valleys

1
Tremendous are the ways of the simple people,
The hills speak with their mouths,
The sky laughs out the rims of their eyes,
The earth walks with the feet of the people
And the wind and the dead are their souls awake
And the sleep, that is theirs comes when the eye-lid
Slips down to meet the soiled slant of their cheeks.

2
Great are the mountain slopes curving along the line
Flanked by the river or the smooth-glint track of train:
A speed of smoke, a sprung-coil loosely heaped beyond the span of steel.
Look to right — look to the left and the fields
That fit in languid patterns between trees,
Umber cornstalks, hay in warm-split stacks!

3
Tight is the hair of women who call cows to the milking,
Wrists and fingers playing out the movement of the udder-press.
White is the angle and the piss and splash of milk.
Let it be remembered, O, let it be remembered
That there are the women and the simple people!

4
The oxen plow and wagon the hay in its high dung-gold,
Making long horns shape and hold the moon,
The red of their sides squat.
The green of the trees spring in wide green waves to the wind,
To the fields and the wide-palmed spread of space.

5
The men are before the night:
With the cracks of their cheeks filled with dust,
And the hands heavy like listless takes swung down,
And the dirt and sweat on their lips,
And the rise and fall of their chests.

6
The women go from the milking to the pot without compunction.
Steps of men and women from the field to the home,
From the plow to the reaping in the deep high swell of wheat.
There are the simple people
Whose hands rest still on a Sabbath,

And great are the fields and the mountains,
And great are the slopes and the valleys.

Joan Murray
(1917-1942)
Vermont and the Hills and the Valleys
(poem)

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