Poetry

Poetry

Fallen

For we are fallen like the trees . . .
                Wendell Berry

Still teeming with green
The body of branches my children once climbed

Lay fallen on our lawn. Through our window
We’d watched the storm’s silver arm

Fling a rain-swelled axe into our white ash.
Watched its torso split. Watched one half lean

Into nothing, drop like a scarf.
And after, we sawed the massive bough,

Sorting the limbs still so
Electric with life, that green

Burned onto our hands and legs
While dust like ashes

Settled to the ground.

















Narrative

This morning’s miracle: dawn turned up its dimmer,
set the net of frost on the lawn to shining. The sky,
lightly iced with clouds, stretched from horizon
to horizon, not an inch to spare, and later, the sun
splashed its bucket of light on the ground. But it’s
never enough. The hungry heart wants more: another
ten years with the man you love, even though you’ve had
thirty; one more night rinsed in moonlight, bodies twisted
in sheets, one more afternoon under the plane trees
by the fountain, with a jug of red wine and bits of bread
scattered around. More, even though the dried grasses
are glowing in the dying light, and the hills are turning
all the syllables of lavender, as evening draws the curtains,
turns on the lamps. One more book, one more story,
as if all the words weren’t already written, as if all the plots
haven’t been used, as if we didn’t know the ending already,
as if this time, we thought it could turn out differently.

Deflate

In autumn I wrestle the plastic water slide
to the ground, my legs like bellows riding the sides,

then pinch the thick airholes into slits
to hear the sizzle of release. A slight wind lifts

my husband’s early summer breath
into September air. It is as if

the lung of summer in the body of the world
is collapsing. I grip the plastic and furl

the bottom toward the top, trapping air
too slow to exit. Geese above me flare

and part; a thatch of brown grass below
dies. Those who claim their losses know

the exquisite pain of letting go. I drag
the slide into the cellar, where it will sag

in a dank corner until June, when once again
small bodies will skim down its inflated spine

beyond our reach. Breathe, boys, breathe,
we pant, then slacken our jaws, unclench our teeth.



















Standing still in insect season

When it touches you, you will keep still,
in spite of black flies hovering—
fiercely itching, lumpish red spots to come—
feeling the day lighten, half-laughing
at yourself, you look so silly

with a butterfly on your arm.
Flawless wings open—orange, deep-brown—
and close to make one dead leaf,
on each side a tiny silver sickle,
moonsliver, which gives it the name,

Comma. Knobbed antennas in front
like turned-around exclamation marks.
Meaning, in the Beginning, when butterflies
were made, for the first time the Word
needed a speck of punctuation.











The recovery of buried poems

Root is what I am, rootpoet
here at home among the worms,
finding here the poem’s terms.”
—Miklos Radnoti, August 8, 1944
If, as it seems, art is nothing, nothing at all—
some sleep only that lulls us toward trees,
what to make of these poems, Miklos,
where you ordered a life into lines?
That brutal stumble through the mountains
might have said enough. Or those curses sneered
by villagers, one pausing near the water well
to dust and dust his sleeves. Finally, you with the rest,
worn through, too settled for another step,
were forced to dig and dig your graves, then

kneel at last on the uncalmed earth there.
What is that light against the fields? Why,
after all that had been done? They sought
to sever tongues from thoughts—those soldiers,
certain in their silence, who carved from hurt
this tender fruit words could have grown
and given seed. Miklos, these hidden poems,
found folded in your pocket. . . . Prove, history,
how the world speaks deeper than decay:
this murmur pulled from underground,
with its challenge of a purer sound and song.