30 aUGUST 2011


Field Notes
We were doing the best we could
Fog and Its Persuasions

About Leonore Hildebrandt




I blow my house up in a dream, heroically,
            in protest of something I can’t recall.

The big maple goes too—explosives blazing
            the tree’s last salute: nothing here is really mine.

An idea-work—like chemicals that stir the negatives,
            self-emerging pictures, faces that rise beneath

a fluid curtain. What have I borrowed? Almost all.
            My wakeful methods, too, gathering

and sorting the world stuff—indebted
            to circumstance. I barely open my eyes,

bury under deeper covers. Finger play makes word play.
            I promise to return with thoughts of blessings—increasing life—

borrowed from air currents, night-clouds, cadences
            of spray and swamp, and water, water, water.


Field Notes

Wind soured with silage: on the hill
north of town, a farmer keeps Black Angus cows.
Wooden barn tilts on the right of the road,
New England farm house sprawls to the left—           
and the black calves have a clear view
of green meadows, the hills, and the town’s distant glint
from the small pen
where they live in brown-black morass,
where they feed on limp roughage, patiently,
their ears poised for answers.

Sun! The meadow is dressed in light and moisture.
Old apple trees, three or four below the barn,
still hold on to yellow, shrunken fruit.
A Family Farm, the sign says.
Perhaps it is a matter of scope. Or voracity.
So that the middleman who wages price tags
and contracts can squeeze them
into the bite-sized lot.
The middleman never sleeps nearby.

The grass has been mowed, hauled off,
packed and sealed under plastic.
Now it rains in the hills,
black calves crowding at the rack.
Movement is habitual:
how to lie down on a muddy slope.



We were doing the best we could

Fingers are elaborate—we know that. First
they struck us as unimpressive. In correspondences,
they hit the wrong keys, kept it in black and white.
You wanted vastness, blue-spun grasshoppers,
sycamores. It looked like a former engine room.
Most were tight-lipped, stepping in sync.
This was not for the faint-hearted—most days
we were sure of what it wasn’t. A deliverance?
They had our contracts on the table. You have to
start somewhere, we would say. Windows
were draped in secrets. Judging by the size of it,
it could have been a sport field. You could say that much
or simply call it a vacancy. The eyes give them away.

Some time in the past, there had been landscaping,
some effort at design. We were granted permission.
You talked of the eucalyptus on the hills.
A fish tank, that’s what it felt like. You wanted trees.
Incessant rain hammered patterns on the metal roof.
We tried digging up foundation plants.
It looked like a yard, the swing-set crooked, slumping.
They took our pictures. Without much notice,
misfit children walked close to the walls.
In a sense, it looked like a failing school,
one of those drop-out factories. We said things
we would later be sorry for. The street lights
signaled, splashing colors over standing water.

It was more of a feeling. Leap-cats and sink holes.
But mostly fog—you would mention the fog to them.
Cordoned off, it looked like a mesh of axons,
like wire shavings. We were subletting always
in another complex. They told us to wait.
Truck-stops succumbed to the fear of open skies.
A whitish growth spread from the center.
They provided instructions: how to get x and y
out of their holes. On Sundays you took mushrooms,
wrapped yourself in orange light and smooth-play.
Body parts were threaded with guts and sinews.
They stopped covering their mouths. We failed to upgrade.
It was as if twigs in the rain brushed against a window.

Pooling water—in a sense, it was what one would expect.
City planners offered elaborations on grid-lines.
We were not ruling things out, taking names
like Feverfew and Hemlock. Towers illumined the dark.
You kindled fires and listened for sirens. Under their
long sleeves bloomed the red and white distinctions.
They had other plans for us, they would say.
One could call it clandestine. Rain, sleet, hail—
all of it lip service, to put it bluntly. And birches?
In our street some allowances were made, improvements
one had to get used to. Operations in boots.
Overnight, craters formed in the asphalt. It looked like
a race track, but smaller. You wanted more. We managed.



His father’s hopes surged with
the arrival of grandsons. 

But the fruit fall where they may. 
His father would say, “You are the scion

of the family fortune.” Pronouncing it
“sign.” He did not like the sound.

Like “sire.” Senior? And what graft?
The shoot inserted into a slit. 

He had moved around, played some jazz,
adopted a bit of the fucked-up flair.

Cuttings are taken in March
before the buds swell.

It surprised him when they took:
each pencil-thin twig on new root-stock.



Fog and Its Persuasions

Days into it, my face adjusts
to the narrowing of the visible world.
I lift heavy clay for planting.
The garden is shaped like a sleeveless dress
laid out between trees. Groups of beds
in parallel folds run at odd angles—
a loose geometry. Among the soil’s contours

pathways string directions.
The air is thick and still,
and ground close-packed.
Ants are swarming, I watch them
slide their legs down twisting bodies
to shrug off their wings—many small
transparencies. Without sunlight

days invent slower rhythms,
even the news comes at odd times:
nuclear plant shuts down in Germany,
night raid shakes up Afghanistan.
4 a.m. thunder, and I stand by the window
as lightning flickers diffusely
into fog. Rain crescendos.

The storm is moving east
toward the pale sky of morning.
There Mother’s surgery is about to begin,
a routine procedure aimed to clear
the Gesichtsfelder, facial fields,
for better vision. In the dark,
young canopies vaguely shadow.

The birds are tucked away,
still as origami. But already it swells—
wave of morning and bird song
that circles the earth.
My solitude is a sweet berry
hard to come by—most often
the mind is hosting guests.

Now fog blends into twilight
as if shunning strong convictions.
I like curvatures—the garden’s
long beds, rising, enabling.
In the weather: a cold front pushes
a line of storms. Downpours—
already the ground is choked

with snow melt and memory
and the faces of soldiers.
Mother and I walk the old cemetery
to an opening among trees—
Jonah, half-way down the throat
of the whale’s curving body, so bronzed
and so balanced, it might be a release.

The stones are hewn roughly
in this line-up from the forties,
names and dates crudely eroded.
In the news, a science project—
children design robotic fighters
for the battle of gladiators.
My mother’s eyes are clearing.

As rain-soaked seeds crack open,
hairlines take root,
then two first leaves appear, fan out—
their facial field is the sky.
People of Rome turned to warrior gods.
I am bent on Krümelstruktur (the soil
neither clumping nor turning to dust).



has published poetry in the Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Poetry Salzburg Review, and the Quercus Review, among other journals. Her translations of Rilke’s Elegies appeared in Cerise Press. Her letterpress chapbook, The Work at Hand, is available from Flat Bay Press; and her first book-length collection, The Next Unknown, is forthcoming in early 2012 from Pecan Grove Press. A native of Germany, Leonore lives off the grid in easternmost Maine and teaches writing at the University of Maine  She is a member of the Flat Bay Collective, serves as an editor for the Beloit Poetry Journal, and runs the Maine Writers Series at the University of Maine at Machias. Her work has received support from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Maine Arts Commission, and the Maine Community Foundation.