We take the two-track road into the hills
With Margit and Suzanne. Something sacred
Here, a hush, with soft birdsong for bells.
Fäbod: a place where animals will dwell.
Sunlight floods the camp. Below, the island
And the lake recede, a galaxy in space.
We feel a gentle vertigo. Our guides
Are happy, shy, restrained. They murmur
When they speak. Three cabins, silver-gray
With age, low sheds, a storage house
On stilts. For centuries, island women
Brought their cows, boating them across,
Then climbed up here for summer grass.
I draw some water for the pot and then
Strip off my shirt to wash while dipping from
The wooden sluice. The women laugh and hoot
At my ablutions. It's an act, to entertain--
Grandson of Emigrants Returns to Mollify
The Ancestors--but don't I hope for absolution
Sort of? No? How about some coffee, then?
Coffee, yes. Margit serves, with sweets
For complements. We keep our conversation low
In dusky light, huddled here within
The silver, seasoned walls, where everything
Feels worn--benches, chairs, ladles, churns.
Every handle here was handled by the dead.
Long before my parents' folks were born,
Someone carved the year in that box bed.
We venture out along the ridge, and there
We sink among the mosses, breathing air
The pines have peppered, picking berries--
Blues and lingons--glad enough, although they say
These can't compare to cloudberries up north.
It's time. We rise, and, gazing out, Suzanne
Lets loose a cow call, freezing us in place:
A she-wolf howling for her mate, a wild cat
But far more musical, a yodel, alpenhorn,
Some whippoorwill, some loon, the yowling of an owl,
A bellowed moo, a sob, a cry. Oh, who
Can say? The wind is in it, too. It rises,
Then descends, unfurling down the sky,
But I get some before it goes. I breathe it in
And keep it, here, covered by my skin.
"Fäbod" appears in Cow Calls in Dalarna, Red Dragonfly Press, 2016.