A load of fence posts

In this painting, on a wagon’s perch, a man,
reins invisible on his lap and his face a smudge
of umber, further tarnished by the turkey red
that day remainders on dusk. And around him,
the hauler of fence posts, a dark outline, waxy
as the outline of a child’s less practiced hand.
Through the body’s black trace glows a little
of the background: the going sun, its rusty flare.

Where it all seems to be this way, a little insubstantial
around the edges, perhaps either will suffice
to weigh us down: a load of fence posts
to rut us into the snow and earth on the soft road home
or the knowledge that we are not beautiful—
at best our clothes hang on us like an angel costume
made out of bed sheets hangs on a girl in a pageant,
her tinsel halo letting through the dark
of the stage curtain drawn behind her as she bows.

A Load of Fence Posts is a painting by Lawren Harris, a member of the Canadian Group of Seven. The painting can be found in the McMichael Gallery, near Toronto.

A Man

(translated from the Macedonian
by Nola Garrett and Natasha Garrett)

I lift this skull that just hours ago
the tempest dug out.
How raw is his innocent death,
exposed after centuries here in this hill
where now I lay him down into a fresh grave,
dewy among wild thyme buzzing with bees.
This hill now seems greater
with a new human stance.
I have added to it
my heart’s force and love,
so I can comprehend
where this resurrected one will go
and what he might tell me,
thought he covers himself with this umbrella,
because it is darker out here
than the light he blazes underground.

The pastor details his hunch about the cross

And conjectures, and offers
a few ways to take down
the body, the God who carries
a taste for blood. On the altar,
before him, an empty simple
cross, and a purple bouquet,
one of which, he doesn’t say,
was arranged, and one which
happened, he knows, against
serious, best judgment—

the way you might extend
a hand to an enemy, suspecting
the risk, knowing better
but offering and retracting
your bared palm over time
like a bud or a bloom opening
to a violet spring sky.

Abandoned boat at sunrise

Up north, my wife, Felice, slipped
away with emphysema, and my work
cruised on without me—accounts balanced,
mortgages afloat.
                                    My sleep done
down here in Florida, I stand
looking out a darkened window
no one’s looking in.
                                          The morning paper
never comes too soon with its rites
of scandal and opinion. I finger
my few stocks’ shifting fractions, consult
the weather map’s puzzle,

while the percolator gurgles and sighs.
I wait for the light,
                                 wait for that moment
when Felice appears, pouring my cream,
easing my bitterness by asking, “Where
will you go today, and who will you carry?”


That bones will brittle
Is my truth,
And that all little
Cells, forsooth,

Will fail and fall,
And falling, leave
My brain’s recall.
So I receive

Lightness of being,
And a beginning
Of agreeing
With this thinning.

So long, lucidity.
Welcome, life’s
Gentle finality—
Its gradual knife.

Forgive the cells
That float and fly.
They’ve done so well,
And so have I.