The Curtain by Hayden Carruth
Just over the horizon a great machine of death is roaring and
One can hear it always. Earthquake, starvation, the ever-
renewing field of corpse-flesh.
In this valley the snow falls silently all day and out our window
We see the curtain of it shifting and folding, hiding us away in
our little house,
We see earth smoothened and beautified, made like a fantasy, the
So graceful in a dream of peace. In our new bed, which is big
enough to seem like the north pasture almost
With our two cats, Cooker and Smudgins, lying undisturbed in
the southeastern and southwestern corners,
We lie loving and warm, looking out from time to time.
"Snowbound," we say. We speak of the poet
Who lived with his young housekeeper long ago in the
mountains of the western province, the kingdom
Of complete cruelty, where heads fell like wilted flowers and
snow fell for many months across the mouth
Of the pass and drifted deep in the vale. In our kitchen the
In our stove. We eat cheese and new-made bread and jumbo
That have been steeped in our special brine of jalapeños and
garlic and dill and thyme.
We have a nip or two from the small inexpensive cognac that
makes us smile and sigh.
For a while we close the immense index of images
Our lives--for instance, the child on the Mescalero reservation
in New Mexico in 1966
Sitting naked in the dirt outside his family's hut of tin and
Covered with sores, unable to speak. But of course the child is
here with us now,
We cannot close the index. How will we survive? We don't and
Beyond the horizon a great unceasing noise is undeniable. The
May break through and come lurching into our valley at any
moment, at any moment.
Cheers, baby. Here's to us. See how the curtain of snow wavers
and falls back.
Credit: Copyright © 1995 by Hayden Carruth. Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org