ROCK upon ROCK, stone burdening stone, sealed
with dust-sweated mortar--was the round idea
like the belly of woman full of child, "a place to
store seed," he said, though he did not believe it.
After the gathering he will lay in cool stillness
in the round idea among the small bustle of God
in his littlest creatures, speaking to them about
blood and clay and the region where sweat rises
then pours like the waters into rivulets off land
Separate and alone again in his mother the earth
through the day dark like the solitary night dark
when she lies there yet is not, with her voice a
small sound become like the buzz of the littlest
and there he will speak to the earth as he had to
the woman round at her belly who was in herself
not answering to his presence at all in the sleep
And he spoke to the round earth as a dove coos
expecting no answer from the seed swallowed
Later, in the round idea what grew there he also ate:
its stem, its bulbous head that opened to spew seed
on moistened earth where he had sat worried alone
and, from that stone womb, came crazed at the sun
howling like an injured beast; so she asked at night
what is it that he called that place and its behavior
(Is it return to the earth like her return to the water).
"No. Place," he said, "No place," he said, "a Holy Place.
Place to spread myself into the day I had been when I
have been injured, where the sun cannot harden me nor
the rain walk along my back as I bend into the garden."
She disliked the sound of it, sounded like a separate thing
from her, knew it would never be her place but a place of
men gathering to share secrets about their seeds, harvest
or planting, the making of rules for the stars and seasons;
like the doorway to her house, sacred to but one at a time.
And he will lie next to cold earth; he will be comforted there;
and he will share rib; and he will share even his bones with it.
For man become shaman is without woman, afraid of woman
who is become God in a round idea, the womb made into stone.
And she will think that forever there is a poverty in the man
that weighs against a richness of her unneed for some hiding
away from the day she had been. Lie inside the earth, she says;
be comforted, and share the rib and your bones with that earth.
And the men came after harvest through the heat into cool night
and the men met at the round idea and they shared their thought,
laughing loudly together, pointing to the round earth she became
and slapping his back for his courage in leaving her while he had
come to the field all summer to hoe and water, to lay away from
her alone in this small place he had built and they asked him what
he would think about hidden from all of them. He said, the song
of God in the bustle of the tiniest creatures had been sung to him.
And one and other of the men who had come to share
the sweat of the harvest looked deeply into their brothers' eye
and knew in the blackest speck of the iris, they had been there
at least once in this stubburn place--maybe when flood washed
the best away just before the great moon, maybe when frost early
for the season astounded the green with the thought of wrinkled
brown leaves. They had each of them once been through this idea
of solitude away from the burden of the long days before harvest.
But no one could recall a memory long enough to say how it was
that they had come back from speaking with God or whether having
so spoken they had been burnt like the leaves in the early frost
or whether like the land after the muddy flood returned richer.
So they bowed slightly, touched their foreheads to the woman
at the house as they passed; assured by friendly greetings, she
believed him well. Who work stubborn land share strange ways.