“I am a landscape,” he said.

“a landscape and a person walking in that landscape.

There are daunting cliffs there,

And plains glad in their way

of brown monotony. But especially

there are sinkholes, places

of sudden terror, of small circumference

and malevolent depths.”

“I know,” she said. “When I set forth

to walk in myself, as it might be

on a fine afternoon, forgetting,

sooner or later I come to where sedge

and clumps of white flowers, rue perhaps,

mark the bogland, and I know

there are quagmires there that can pull you

down, and sink you in bubbling mud.”

“We had an old dog,” he told her, “when I was a boy,

a good dog, friendly. But there was an injured spot

on his head, if you happened

just to touch it he’d jump up yelping

and bite you. He bit a young child,

they had to take him down to the vet’s and destroy him.”

“No one knows where it is,” she said,

“and even by accident no one touches it.

It’s inside my landscape, and only I, making my way

preoccupied through my life, crossing my hills,

sleeping on green moss of my own woods,

I myself without warning touch it,

and leap up at myself -“

“- or flinch back

just in time.”

“Yes, we learn that.

It’s not a terror, it’s pain we’re talking about:

those places in us, like your dog’s bruised head,

that are bruised forever, that time

never assuages, never.”


I found this poem as one of today’s reflection on Moved to Greater Love

When I was a younger woman, I understood that I carried within myself a set of landmines which could explode unexpectedly and shatter whatever inner tranquility I had achieved. Specific situations and people seemed to trigger those moments of pain. It took me a long time before I realized that I had to distance myself from them. Just thinking of them brings back anguish.

Coming back down the mountain, as in returning from a retreat, has me much more open to feeling fragile. This is surely why this poem echoes within me. 

Art: Porcelain skin, found here.