Ditches

In winter’s heart, the cold wasteland
of wind and snow and ice
that cuts the skin and tears the eyes,
I am found quite alone.
Though people pass me on the streets,
and prancing horses or lone red roses
beckon my company thither,
in the cold I remain,
digging the day away.

As gray afternoon turns to dark evening,
and by lantern I must toil,
the shops and pubs shine bright
with the soft glow of fires and candlelight.
Though warm they shine
into the darkness of my night,
the light is sharp to my eyes.
No welcome do I see,
but some kind of blaze which blinds me.
This task I have is yet undone,
and I must pursue the night through.
Others may be safe and warm,
but I will brave the cold harshness
in my effort of steadfastness.

The hours pass and days roll by,
and I slave all the hours.
The ground is hard as stone,
and my shovel just as ancient,
so I must use all my strength
to break this barren land
to prove to self and to all
who is the greatest man.

O sing today, as every day,
we the people do delight
in merriment and harmony,
for life’s joys and beautiful sights.
We see the cold of winter.
We see how the wind blows,
so lift your voices one and all.
Today’s the day of rejoicing
for life the way it strangely is,
for snow is white, and grass is green
and flowers bloom when sunshine shows.

To my ears some grotesque sound,
so loud and too unrhythmed,
comes blasting across the cold ground.
Where is the order of strict melodies?
Those people sing so unbidden.
Again, as day turns to night,
I must continue my noble labor,
a thing of beauty when it is finished,
one man’s brilliance, one man’s treasure.
For all will look on in wonder when they see
that the grandest canyon can be carved
by the one and only me.

And then, again, I hear the people sing:
As spring awakes and cold snow melts,
so often do cold hearts.
Gather near your loved ones lost,
and partake as new life arriveth.
As resurrected from the grave of frost
the sun has conquered death.

Quite singularly I have fashioned
the earth to my design,
while others simply gawk at beauty
and create with simple passions,
I have refused to be resigned
to such base, unruly simplicity.
And yet, as sun streams anew,
and I gaze down at my ravine,
I am suddenly struck with a longing
to share its majesty with another,
to know that it is admired,
to feel how much I must matter.

So I am resolved to make a visit
to those horses and the rose,
to advertise this work of art.
What songs will be written in its worthy honor!
But as I step toward the town,
I find that I cannot.
For, in between me and all those people
is the very valley with which I sought
to distinguish myself from the cattle.
For things which bar us most from others
are the ditches we dig ourselves.

And in that moment, I did perceive
just how lonely loneliness can be.
For to reach any other person,
I must destroy what I had fashioned.
What failure and ruin would then await me?
So in that moment, as I knew
myself at last, I began to lament.

Whoever heard it first,
we still do not know,
but the sound of weeping could be heard
in every home and every tavern.
Someone pointed to the east,
and for the first time we saw,
what snow and darkness had concealed,
a great trench, half a mile wide and deep,
Then to our horror,
we saw the source of those loud tears;
a young man, our very own,
on the other side, standing all alone.
We ran for our shovels, and the news spread:
come help get Mrs. Webster’s son
and bring all the tools from your sheds.

We tilled from early morning to noon,
when we rested for some lunch.
Each woman and man and every little child
lifted shovels and trowels
or only their hands to fill that awful valley.
And on the other side, having done with tears,
his shovel in his hand
Mrs. Webster’s son also worked
just as tirelessly as any.

Then, finally, just as the sun began to sink
behind the distant hills,
at last, our task we had finished.
The sky glowed and the hills burned red,
and we all gathered,
master Webster returning to his friends.
Such joy and glee was in every heart
to be so reunited, and even in his solemn face,
we saw some semblance of satisfaction.
He took his final look at the freshly filled grave
where all his pride and avarice lay.
Then with a shout he announced
that tonight we would feast
at his favorite pub
and as thanks it would be his treat.

Such revelry and dancing,
such merriment and good eating.
Young Webster was even seen
dancing with the fair, sweet Jean.
And he wasn’t allowed to pay the bill,
for one cannot overcome many.
In the gladness of his return
and sharing in our lot, we brought him back.
For a hard day’s work,
or even a hard winter’s labor,
is well rewarded by a banquet in the evening.

Now summer’s heat is all around,
The sun beats down upon us,
and the ground is dry and cracked.
Though, it’s no surprise that to the east
grass, green as green ever was,
grows on that flat piece of land
where once there dipped between us,
a chasm too wide to cross,
a schism between our souls.
Now so quickly we’ve forgotten the distance,
only remembering the end of our division.

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