“When everything else has gone from my brain—. . .what will be left, I believe,
is typology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.”

Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

Here is northern neck’s
typology at spring’s approach —
spindly forsythia and wild mustard
are first to encroach against the raw
umbers and dull ochres of mud and marsh.
Tributaries flow to estuaries running
to rivers feeding the bay that openly
gives herself up to the larger body,
all fingers of water that move subtly
toward the trigger points, loosen
every strain an outsider brings,
yet somehow have lost touch
over commonwealth’s lowland ennui
and cannot stop the anxious oystermen’s
monotonous declarations that surely
by now, when winter has had its way
and the goats have stripped the forage,
it is futile to make the same climb
up crooked rungs of makeshift ladders
nailed to live oak and yellow pine
and into the deer stands just to wait
through one more vacant morning.
“Better ways to pass the time, ”
I heard one of them say:
“no reason not to let the beagles in
with the fenced foxes” to test them
for right instincts, hope to find
the kind of grit they count on
from the native hounds—
how they lock on the scent,
keep their heads down,
hold their noses to the ground,
stay dead set on the trail
despite every distraction,
just like that fine farmer’s pack
did five April’s ago now
when it missed the vixen, who crossed
from the wood and ran three full circles
through the rutted field,
spiraling toward the center,
where she stood safe in the open
because the whole lot of them
were hell-bent on making
every perfect inbred turn.

— first appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review