Wilderness
Once, while I was watching a group of cows
take careless steps through a Virginia field,
my sister stood outside and watched the lights
of fire engines spin across the walls
of a neighbor’s house as it burned for hours
three hundred miles away from my sadness.

It was another sign of her madness
growing worse. I was unaware. Some crows
perched on fence posts near where I stood, and ours
was a different sort of vigil. Cows filed
past our lines of vision, heeding the calls
of the distant farmer beyond our sights.

Up on that mountain, the dark summer nights
seemed wholly starless, nurtured my sadness.
And I spent most days there looking at walls,
searching for words and, in the evening, cows.
I’d lean on a fencepost and scan the field.
Everything, nothing on my mind for hours.

Some say that all families are broken. Ours
broke so slowly it was like seeing lights
fade in the distance as you left. It failed
under the weight of my sister’s madness.
I felt like I belonged there with the crows
on that remote mountain. My mother’s calls

filled my answering machine. Darkness falls
quickly in those mountains, overcomes hours
of daylight in seconds. Slow-moving cows
disappear in front of your eyes. Those nights
I could close my eyes and escape sadness
if I tried hard, escape into a field

of absence, like a sheep outside the fold.
I’ve spent most of my life evading walls
and the rest of it avoiding madness.
Now I love a woman who loves me. Ours
is a full joy that very rarely lights
on any life. I left behind the crows

and the cows and my family. Have I fooled
myself, or really shed endless nights, walls,
and those hours, whole days, devoured by sadness?
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