Archive for Hajings



It was time to dig a well in Vermont.
My mother, never one to waste a penny,
asked in the town as to who was good
at finding where the water was.

The answer came up Walt Stowall, our plumber,
a farmer from down Townshend way,
a big round patient man whose vowels
were clipped and honest as a hoe,

a less mystical and airy-fairy person
you could not imagine in those blue overalls.
He come up to the house one spring morning
when the sap was running like the roaring creek

and cut his witching rod, a young sapling
maybe three and a half foot long, started
off near the house, with that young maple
sticking out horizontal in front of him,

Didn’t take much time for water either –
that stick pulled straight down, yanking
out his hands like a trout was
on the other end of a line to it.

I was in my teens, I think, I’d never
seen water found like this or any other way,
so when he asked me if I’d like to try
myself, the answer was out in a flash.

He showed me how to use the stick:
you grab it with the stem pointing down,
you hold the forking branches of the Y
like you would two ropes coming from above.

And then you turn your wrists towards you,
so that stem goes out before you like a lance.
I maybe felt a little foolish like that,
as I walked right towards the spot

where I had seen him hold that jumping rod
pulling down so hard the bark had twisted
off the slick light wood that he was holding
on so tight to. And when I hit that spot:

Nothing. Not a twitch. I was disappointed –
I’d hoped to feel that dancing in my hands too.
He offered to help. I went back over to him
and he walked behind me, He put his great

arms round mine, his strong paws gently
on my forearms, we started back towards where
he’d had his strike, maybe ten steps
from where we were, out in front the house.

We got there slowly, then: TOOONG!
He didn’t push one bit, whatever bends the rod
came up into me, the hook sets –
is a lightning rod, a charge

That Y-stem yanked down just like for him,
I held on tight like he had, my world
changed then, it won’t change back,
not as long as I can feel like then

that rod jumping, twitching, pulling
out away from me, pointing down
towards some spring, just like a setter
points towards the fallen duck.

Dowsing isn’t just a theory when you’ve
tensed your forearms against the tug
of something hidden so far below you
that you didn’t know you knew to sense

its presence. Mr. Stowall gave me certainty
that day, just like he gave us water for the house.
He and I were unconcerned about questions
any scientist would ask: was water found

that day so long ago? Of course. There was
no doubt that when the digger came and sank
that steel into the vein he’d found that there’d
be water for us – they only went down

twenty-five feet, that well is running strong
right to this day. There was no mystery
in the digging. My mother knew the folks
in town would know who knew his stuff.

She probably paid a couple dollars as she thanked
him in the kitchen, poured some juice to drink.
And I had learned: there is an art to divination.
Our body knows so much we never see.





there is a smile you share
with him, and he with me,
which grew inside you,
a well flowing, a wind,
ferns, a hawk on high,
a silversing of flute –
how still it haunts my ears
so far from waves
that lap grey stone
on which, long-haired,
sword in belt, light
in quiet eyes, rides
music, still and smiling.





International House, 7 AM
returning from the shared bathroom,
I meet a tall young swarthy
unshaven American, sweat-suited
sneakered, walking gingerly,
less weight on his left foot.

G’morning I greet him
Hey – good morning the reply,
hey comes with a smile
and youth, ebullience,
friendly springiness
American eyes

I walk on lightened
thinking about “hey”
a word like a frisbee
tossed my way
A Yankee syllable
I catch the pass

our lives walk apart
the easiness stays



Home Game

Home Game

Late afternoon, the Saturday soccer game –
Silvinho’s sítio, in the hills outside Atibaia
I am visiting my wife’s cousin’s family
Zé Cocco and his son-in-law Mano are players,
forward and goal, ataque e goleiro.

“Wander around, fique à vontade” –
I walk past ponds, chickens, through sheep,
open a gate of planks, pass into a meadow –
the signs of city, even farm, recede.
I stand on the bank of the river.

It has swirled against hard red clay
more centuries than there are words for
the current and soil know each other’s measure
they are ready to outstay us, a deep logic
rimmed with reeds, who knows their names?

I follow its low song, along high bank
through butterflies, a black and white beetle
on red orange yellow blossoms: so tiny!
I step carefully, cows have been here
maybe snakes, though still I hear traffic.

The silence of woods calls to me.
Trees hung with streamers of pale moss
quiet in sunshine, no breeze
the bark covered with miniscule plants
it is too hot not to try growing everywhere.

On one trunk, a brown structure of mud
two and a half feet long, a dime-sized hole
at the top, one black marimbondo as sentinel
another buzzes past to join perhaps hundreds –
Translation: hornets build with mud here.

I swing past slowly, into the dark canopy
on the lookout for anything, watching leaves
listening for birds, I know what I want –
to feel the ancient pulse, before villages,
the same beat of heart as in Canadian woods.

Two ruts of a road meander the river,
there are crude platforms for fishing,
empty bottles, pails, abandoned bamboo,
truck tires, no one will pick up here,
this is an edge. The sun sinks low behind me.

A spider, its body the size of a child’s finger,
hangs in mid-air, web invisible, no chance
for her prey to spot it, this is her realm
between dark bark, dry leaves, brown water.
I look at the opposite bank: who lives there?

No voice answers, there are dues to be paid.
To outwait these trees is the work
of generations, shrewd lookers who hunted here –
or who learned how to farm. I can ask,
but know enough to expect no reply.

I retrace my steps, return to Brasil
to fences, rusting barrels, two dogs,
past orange trees, the house and cars,
up cement stairs to the yells of futebol
from the small field cut into the hillside.

Two teams of friends, red shirts and white
grimly, laughingly, pay homage to the art
of foot and head. Beautiful shots, saves,
passes behind backs, the goalie cries,
“Marcação! Cover him! Vamos lá – let’s go!”

Serious fun, no quarter asked, but for injuries,
the others wait for the one on the ground,
wisecracks are the balm for the kicked shin,
the twisted ankle, strained knee, it continues
with careful roughness, there is a next game to think of.

Sweating, insults, curses, beer and barbecue
call for an end, one team has won, there are jeers,
panting, shirts are off, this game is history,
the flashes of brilliance these men have worked for
are the seed of the great teams of tomorrow,

those one may see on TV, far from these hinterlands
linked to dust, these dogs, two young boys
taking shots at the goal while someone retrieves
the other ball from the bushes. This dance of men
rises from deepest rivers in these mountains.

Back at the house, quick showers, TV blaring,
Palmeiros vs. Santos, Cruzeiro vs. Vasco,
tall cold brown bottles, drinking, shouting,
the meat, beer-marinaded, goes onto the grill,
a card game, truco, begins, is fought fiercely,

rough jokes, banter about manhood, taunts,
six lines of talk, now five, no maybe eight,
I catch snippets, the whole incomprehensible,
mysterious cards are flung onto the table,
this is men doing men among men,

only the jokes change from here to Brooklyn,
Kenya, Tokyo, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Perth.
No girls allowed, though maybe yearned for
I am adopted into the family of beer,
work ended, the sizzle of meat on flames

then wrapped in rolls, no napkins, placemats.
I cannot help grinning, this lingo I speak
with no words. Home far from home,
I am given a place at the table, glasses
and cards slam down, into the evening.



The American Way of Life

The American Way of Life

a global misunderstanding
how can anything so creepy wonderful
corny cool and Krunchie
be shrink-wrapped into
just one set of borders?

And yet – and yet
the planes go in, the firefighters
go charging up the stairs
that twenty thousand are pouring down
they step to the side
to let the two men carrying the old lady
in the wheelchair pass by –
their descent started on the eighty-somethingth floor –
and the great sheets of morning windows
crumple into themselves
dusting down into the aching gasp
making what someone saw to be
a stadium of sorrow
and the world, our one world,
stops a heartbeat, cries together.

we all breathe clouds of engineering
thinking ingenuity, it dusts us
from that morning, through the stricken
TV, cell phones call out from within the rubble
xeroxes are held up by the survivors,
photos of the lost ones
despairing eyes ask us about her:
she was working on the 49th, or he
was visiting today, up on the eighty-eighth

and somehow in the tons of dust and girders
there is also rain of tinsel and shuck
and we see how many people find
how many ways to help –
we all want to help dig into the new mountain
but we who can’t we send bottles of water and food
and we have one innocence dashed
only to have another given back to us:
yes, there are heroes, and they live next door.

And we are yes not other than the one
big family that we once knew we were,
in the sandbox, sledding, flying kites
jumping off high rocks into deep pools
teaching each other to knit, braiding hair,
laughing, laughing, rich, poor, cruel, kind
more here, more now, more everalways
everyhere, more this




less vast
than love
let go of

Belo Horizonte
Summer 1993 (?)