In summer the stream will shrink to little more than a rill, and grow so quiet and slow that you must listen carefully to hear any sound of trickling at all. But even then there is a hint of coolness in its valley, not only from the dense shade of the trees but from the water itself, sluggish though it might be. Somehow when I cross that stream, whatever the time of year, it is always the image of summer that comes to my mind, the torpid air and the buzz of insects hovering over the cooling water.
In truth, it is the winter the stream preserves all year, carrying the vanquished snow the earth slowly releases through springs. Through autumn, when the leaves drift on the water like tatters of confetti left by some celebration, the old winters continue to seep and flow, gathering seaward, repeating their long cycle. It's the faint breath of winter that cools the air on those hot summer days. It was winter I saw this afternoon as I glanced downstream to where the brush shrouded a curve that was visible only last week. It was winter rushing away, but all I thought was that summer will soon be here.
Tonight the crickets are telling me the same thing. Their rhythmic chirps are like a ticking clock, measuring the passing of spring. The evening is still mild, and the full moon is rising. Moonlight and shadows will dance to the leaf-voiced sound of breezes in the woods, while frogs and crickets keep time. Winter continues to flow downstream, off to the ocean's storehouse of seasons, but I won't hear it. Spring is breathing, and its insect heartbeat marks the time.
by Stephen Dunn
If you travel alone, hitchhiking,
sleeping in woods,
make a cathedral of the moonlight
that reaches you, and lie down in it.
Shake a box of nails
at the night sounds
for there is comfort in your own noise.
And say out loud:
somebody at sunrise be distraught
for love of me,
somebody at sunset call my name.
There will soon be company.
But if the moon clouds over
you have to live with disapproval.
You are a traveler,
you know the open, hostile smiles
of those stuck in their lives.
Make a fire.
If the Devil sits down, offer companionship,
tell her you've always admired
her magnificent, false moves.
Then recite the list
of what you've learned to do without.
It is stronger than prayer.