the window is shut

the window is shut
on me living like Dick Proenneke
though only a little older
than he at his beginning
I am too old for that now
I do not have
his skill for building
or his taste for labor
but I admire his gift for solitude
the purity of his days
imagine a life where no one
ever doubted you—
Proenneke proved that a man
could leave the modern world
and build a life to break a poet’s heart
to enter the wilderness with one whole tool
and the heads of half a dozen others
but even he must have doubted
why bring the camera?
why record it at all?
who are you trying to impress?
are you doing this for yourself or not?
toward the end of his days
he was like Saint Francis
with wild birds that swept from the trees and the sky
to play in his fingers
to sit on his shoulders and
to scratch and clean his scalp with their beaks
he understood these birds
each with its singular mating call
he, too, had a call
the thick shunk-shunk of a double bladed axe
the thud of his hammer
the chink of his chisel
the rasp of his hungry saw
I think that if she’d come to him
if she’d stood there in the moonlight
by the pure water
he’d have had her in

—Don Whittington

Dick Proenekke feeding a red squirrel

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