Robert Farnsworth

Vagrancy

From an early American autumn evening
flung back into tomorrow’s afternoon,
I sat a while in the car park, smoking
over a map, then for practice drove west
to a neglected town, where transatlantic
flying boats set down seventy years ago,
and on the silent pier beside their museum,
imagined back the long white scuds of their
landings. No one else otherwise like me
would have come here. So now that no one
could take my peculiar solitude from me,
I set out, prompted by the intuition that my
heart would feel welcome on the grounds
of some durable verse I first read forty
years ago. Intimation, almost invitation—
I felt bound to honor, no, not answer, honor.
Even knowing the big house was a ruin.
Under steep September sky: sea-gray,
lavender, blue, and quartz, I shouldered
a bag, and set off into the Seven Woods
toward the lough, not expecting swans—
all flown, long flown, as that weary spell
of a poem supposed they would be.
But on those woodland paths I made a loop
of several miles, until I’d walked myself
quite out of the life I’d yesterday begun
to shed in the airport lounge. The pleasure
was guilty, but pleasure it was, piercing
as music I wished never to end, a real
depaysement, an achieved disappearance,
a belonging more profound for its complete
fictitiousness, and I lay down in these
beneath a lime tree in Lady Gregory’s garden,
to sleep a just sleep, as in the cherished
crypt of a page. Invisible, anonymous—
who could I fail now? My sleep was not
my own; who was going to wake me?
Nobody I knew knew where I was, knew
that I was this contented tramp dozing
in September shade in a mildly famous garden.
His hour of sleep would change me,
just enough to make the next weeks happen
not exactly to me, but exactly. I woke
under the gaze of six red deer that then
stepped off across the rain-silvered meadow.


Robert Farnsworth