• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
out my window. . .

out my window. . .

I’m reading a collection of Wendell Berry poems and was struck by Window Poems – a series in which Berry observes life outside of his window, and consequently inside himself. Following are several window poems from Kijabe. All details are true – including the leopard cubs in the local forest and the freshwater crabs.

Outside is the Darkness

Outside is the darkness,
in the darkness the rain falls heavy, 
cascading across the road,
washing out trenches
on its way to the stream,
gathering steam 
to thunder down Paradise Falls, 
on to flood and feed the valley.

In the darkness, in the waterfalls,
freshwater crabs search for food in gathering pools.
Colobus huddle silently in the trees above,
white tails waterlogged in the heavy,
moonless night,
waiting to wake the dawn with bullfrog croaks, 
but now is the time of stillness.

The leopard and her cubs take cover from the storm, 
maybe in a tree, 
maybe in the cleft or a rock. . .
secret, wherever they are.

Above, the sound of the late flight approaching Nairobi, 
a reminder not all is wild here;
I read late with electric lights and hot tea, 
considering the dark forest outside my window.

The Porch

Outside my window is a North Carolina porch in the Kenyan highlands.
Not intentional imitation, rather, a subconscious construction
that felt and fit like home but failed in a major way –  
once the huge trees fell, the porch was no longer alone,
the escape and retreat became a window to the world
and solitude was found indoors rather than out.

For an inexplicable reason I bought a second set of white outdoor couch cushions, knowing full will they would soon be covered with the red footprints of my children and the visiting monkeys.

Now, the cushions are remarkable against the dark wood and chunky 10×10 legs. Soon they will be the color of the wood.

In time the trees will return and the secluded hideaway outside my window will regain its magic. The trees have grown a foot already this year in the consistent rains. Always there is change.

All things come up and go down, the neighbor’s house, the mabati fence, the trees, the workers emerging from the forest path on long morning walks, disappearing down the mountain in the evening.

To a Siberian Woodsman #3

I sit on my porch above the river that flows muddy and slow along the feet of the trees. I hear the voices of the wren and the yellow-throated warbler whose songs pass near the windows and over the roof. In my house my daughter learns the womanhood of her mother. My son is at play, pretending to be the man he believes I am. I am the outbreathing of this ground. My words are its words as the wren’s song is it’s song.

— Wendell Berry

Locating the Sunset

They say the sun rises in the East and sets in the West,
but my window is constant and
the volcano is constant,
both fixed points of reference.

The precise location of the sunset must drift through the seasons, 
down the southern slopes,
back up to the peak,
then down the northern slopes.

A thought strikes me
as the sun strikes my face
that an ancient Kikuyu must have thought the same logic
as he stood on the rocky outcropping near big fig.

The world was his window
the sun was his sun
the time was his time
and now it is mine.

Meditation in the Spring Rain

We’ll not soon escape the faith of our fathers — no more than crazy old Mrs. Gaines, whom my grandmother remembers standing balanced eighty years ago atop a fence in Port Royal, Kentucky, singing: “One Lord, one Faith, and one Cornbread.” — Wendell Berry

Spending Time

If time is currency, 
is not the best investment
to spend it on moments of wonder
to linger
beneath the painted sunset sky
in gathering darkness,
blue then black,
planets then stars
these things,
this life,
so much larger than me
yet somehow, I still part of them
part of the grand mystery unfolding
outside my window and
inside my head

The Design of a House #5

love articulates the choice of life in fact; life chooses life because it is alive; what lives didn’t begin dead, nor the sun’s fire commence in ember.— Wendell Berry