Excerpts > Spring 2001
From Call and Response
Constance Merritt and Eleanor Wilner

From the Land of Shades
--Constance Merritt

Their voices rise and carry across the fields
To where she stands, alone in the almost-dark:
Red Rover, Red Rover, they chant and call her name.

With everything she is she wants to run--
Breaking through the line of arms she'll bring her favorite 
Back, and together they will forge another

Chain. Or failing that, they'll take her in,
The body of the Fold (O sweet! O warm!)
Moving toward their mother's calling voices.

Where the others stand she thinks she can see light
(Red Rover, Red Rover, they chant and call her name);
The darkness gathers round her, thick and total.

It is her wish to run but something checks her:
The dead do not return from the land of shades.
Red Rover, Red Rover, they chant and call her name.

O Dog of Athens O Belle of Amherst
Traveler in Concord and Faun of the Wood
Link arms with her against that mutton light.

Transactions in a Field That's Overgrown
--Eleanor Wilner

It is dusk in the field, uncanny, those calls,
the way that voices carry just before the air goes dark,
when the light is violet, and the eye is fooled,
just before the moon swims up from the mud
of the pond, to lie on the dark water's silken
skin, a composure that even the slightest breeze
can ruffle--the moon a splinter of minnows.

The voices have faded with the dusk,
and night has come like a curtain dropped
over the brave show of the day, the bravado
of noon, the fading certainties of afternoon,
the buzz of skeets by four, the sweating of 
the ice-filled glass that leaves a silver
ring on the old porch floor, as the heat
of the day wearies, relenting
by degrees, it is then, across those half-lit
fields, we hear the children call:
                          Red Rover, Red Rover . . .
. . . come over, come over . . . 
grainy as old film the memory as it goes,
as the field fades like Brigadoon, those
voices bring the dark in with them; what
twilight brought, night swallows back--
and how we ache to break and run, be
caught in those arms again, and, laughing,
fall in the evening grass, feel its damp,
all unaware, distance not yet bred of time,
and hear (shh, don't breathe, listen . . .)
our mothers' voices calling from afar
across the meadow's darkening air.

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