My left eye is blind and jogs like
a milky sparrow in the socket;
my nose is large and never flares
in anger, the front teeth are bucked,
but not in lechery--I sucked
my thumb until the age of twelve.
O my youth was happy and I was never lonely
though my friends called me "pig eye"
and the teacher though me loony.
(When I was bruised , my psyche kept intact:
I fell from horses, and once a cow but never
pigs--a neighbor lost a hand to a sow.)
But I had some fears:
the salesman of eyes,
his case was full of fishy baubles,
against black velvet, jeweled gore,
the great cocked hoof of a Belgian mare,
a nest of milk snakes by the water trough,
my uncle's hounds,
the pump arm of an oil well,
the chop and whirr of a combine in the sun.
From my ancestors, the Swedes,
I suppose I inherit the love of rainy woods,
kegs of herring and neat whiskey--
I remember the long nights of pinochle,
the bulge of Redman in my grandpa's cheek;
the rug smelled of manure and kerosene.
They laughed loudly and didn't speak for days.
(But on the other sided, from the German Mennonites,
their rag smoke prayers and porky daughters
I got intolerance, an aimless diligence.)
In '51 during a revival I was saved:
I prayed on a cold register for hours
and woke up lame. I was baptized
by immersion in the tank in Williamston--
the rusty water stung my eyes.
I left off the old things of the flesh
but not for long--one night beside a pond
she dried my feet with her yellow hair.
O actual event dead quotient
cross become green
I still love Jubal but pity Hagar.
(Now self is the first sacrament
who loves not the misery and taint
of the present tense is lost.
I strain for a lunar arrogance
the lamp infects
warmth, more warmth, I cry.)
- Jim Harrison