I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You By Hayden Carruth

The northern lights.         I wouldn’t have noticed them
    if the deer hadn’t told me
    a doe         her coat of pearls         her glowing hoofs
                      proud and inquisitive
                      eager for my appraisal
and I went out into the night with electrical steps
    but with my head held also proud
                      to share the animal’s fear
                      and see what I had seen before
    a sky flaring and spectral
                      greenish waves and ribbons
and the snow         under strange light         tossing in the pasture
    like a storming ocean caught
                      by a flaring beacon.
    The deer stands away from me         not far
                      there among bare black apple trees
                      a presence I no longer see.
    We are proud to be afraid
                      proud to share
the silent magnetic storm that destroys the stars
                      and flickers around our heads
    like the saints’ cold spiritual agonies
                      of old.
I remember         but without the sense         other light-storms
    cold memories discursive and philosophical
                      in my mind’s burden
    and the deer remembers nothing.
We move our feet         crunching bitter snow         while the storm
    crashes like god-wars down the east
                      we shake the sparks from our eyes
    we quiver inside our shocked fur
                      we search for each other
    in the apple thicket—
                      a glimpse, an acknowledgment
    it is enough and never enough—
we toss our heads         and say good night
    moving away on bitter bitter snow.
Hayden Carruth, “I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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