Poetry - August, 2007

Poetry

A parable of marriage

Disregarding the heat, we settled down to it:
clearing a path through the elmwood and oak.
It’s slow going—an all-day job. Stones fat

as watermelons. Quick, gray blades of limestone
layered into the ground a foot or more.
We rooted them out with crowbars, a shovel,

or dug them free by hand, then tossed
the rocks into a wheelbarrow. Tomorrow,
they’ll be put to use: load by load we’ll haul them

up the hill for a border, follow
our new trail straight on to the high west
pasture. Where late in the day sun breaks

against shade, burns whitest fronting the treeline
of the woods—light upon shadow—we
stopped work for the night. Passing you

the last drink of water from the canteen,
I nodded toward home, and we traced the way
back down in silence, the only sounds

a locust, the snap of twigs, our workboots
scraping over rock shards and dust.
We kept close to ourselves, listening.











Poetry

On hearing my young student in Britten's parable opera Curlew River

Somewhere in the sacred opera,
in a sea of men, the little voice,
        fearless in the face
        of the foreign marketplace of sound
        booming in the maw of the basilica,
came forth, the little voice,
like the water bird above the river.

The lost child’s chant, meant to take away
a mother’s grief, came at us
from behind.

His form, white, diaphanous, backlit,
wafted from the narthex down the nave,
one flaming wing trembling,
his treble sure, sure, soaring,
pinning my lapsed heart
to some small certainty:

All shall be well.
The ears of the deaf
shall be open, as well
as the gates
to the house of doubt.





Poetry

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.











Poetry

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.





Poetry

Hunger

You can feel his heartbeat slow
            as he loiters just off the Expressway,
                     by the Okoboji Swamp
looking casual as an old purse
            under the Spanish moss,

his eyes envisioning some delicacy
            —a family of small newts
                     with a salad of green scum,
or several whiskered catfish.
            Under his gorgeous skin his brain is moving,

as mine and yours are moving now
            with joy at hunger,
                     joy at hunger filled.
Suddenly he opens his mouth
            of magnificent stalactites and stalagmites,

astonished at the power
            of his new hunger. He rises and
                     like a bee bumbling into a flower,
staggers sideways toward the Expressway.
            As guards gather,

drawing guns, he is lost in bliss
            imagining
                     the turquoise swimming pool
down the road,
            stocked with children.