Amy Tudor was born in Georgia and spent much of her life there and in Virginia. Her first full-length collection of poetry, A Book of Birds, won the Liam Rector First Book Prize in Poetry and was published by Briery Creek Press in 2008. She has both a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities and a MFA in Creative Writing, and she is a recipient of grants from both the Kentucky Arts Council and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. In addition to her poetry, Amy has published fiction, creative nonfiction, and photographs. She teaches part-time at Bellarmine University and lives in the Highlands in Louisville.
My one prayer is that I may be privileged
to have one more opportunity to try
to make you happy. I trust it will be granted to me.
- 2nd Lt. Francis M. Tracy, to his wife
Ghost-gray, my mare steps careful
on white hooves over tree limbs,
leaves, wheat lain flat on the ruin of earth.
The red creek has burst its red banks.
The funnel came down from a winter
cloud, the gusts lashing the wheat.
The brown barn lost half its copper
roof at touchdown, the great dry beams
peeling back. The old farmhouse,
overgrown with vines and branches,
fell at last, the floors, their webs
and nests tumbling down,
a jumble of dust and glass.
Now, it's snowing, the quiet drift
of dime-sized flakes. The trees are bowed,
old women wearing heavy white robes.
We stop at the edge of a sleeping field.
The mare gnaws her bit, the sound
like someone biting on ice. She shifts
her weight, an ankle cocking back,
but beneath me, her body's so strong,
a ship's keel in this sea of ruin and white.
Spring is coming, I tell her, both of us
dotted with snow as white as ghosts.
Think of it – the fields high with wheat and corn,
the grass turning the breeze soft and green.
And how sweet it will be,
how good the grass, how warm
the sun, how bright. The banded cows,
sheep, will fill the pastures
and overhead the birds in flight.
Above that, my old girl,
the eggshell clouds
and the blue, forgiving sky.
What We Love
I walk my old dog down a street called Holiday,
past trees whose white bark is trimmed with silver
in the light rain of early Spring. The dog’s small heart
is failing and the vet’s said he shouldn’t be out,
but if we walk slowly he can go four or five squares
of sidewalk, then I let him stop and rest.
He puts his nose up into the cool air, the wind ruffling
his black and white coat and the gray on his ears,
the wind smoothing over him. When he can’t go
any further (halfway past that lovely ocre-colored house
in my neighborhood, the one that’s half-hidden by linden
and guarded by an iron gate), I carry him against my chest.
One day a black lab stood at a driveway gate
and barked at us as we passed. My old dog
looked from beneath half-lidded eyes and didn’t answer,
and finally the other dog’s owner, an older man,
came out the screen door and called the dog to come back.
The dog rose from where he sat, a hind leg dragging
and his right-front hitched as he moved toward the house.
I watched it go. The man looked at me holding
my old dog against my chest. The man smiled.
He raised a hand, half-greeting, half-regret.
I should say here that I know the rules I’m breaking.
I was told years ago that poets shouldn’t waste
their time on trivial things like dying pets.
“It’s been done, and done, and done to death,”
a friend once said. And it has, sure
as death’s been done and done and done to death.
So I’ll make a deal with you– forget
what I’ve said about my dog in my arms,
his nose in the air, the wind like hands. And forget
the man and his black lab that limped up
those brick back steps. I won’t write about any of that.
I’ll write a poem about what we love instead.
What we love is a night and a house
wreathed with linden, the dark kept outside
a circle of light over an iron gate. It’s fine
as silver paper or the wind of early Spring.
What we love is a tree that grows outside our window
as we grow inside its panes, a small good thing
we bring home – or that follows us there -- one day.
Then it’s a friend that walks with us, gentle
and welcome as rain. It’s what we call to us to come
when darkness is coming, and it’s what tends us,
and what we tend. And finally it’s what we carry
close against us, feeling blessed as we hold it
and joy for what it gives and has given,
for the comfort it’s been through hard, heavy days,
forgiving every burden it’s been, grateful
for even the grief we must carry when it’s gone,
that soft, warm, impossible weight.
The sorrel mare in her stall, eyes clouded over,
the card—Blind—slid into the stall’s slot.
I knew she’d be put down but I went in
with the bucket, the curry comb and brush,
the cream that smoothes the tattered mane.
In the quiet, I called to her and her rust-colored head
(shot with a snowy star) came up. When her nose
bumped the wall, she blinked, jerked back, lowered it again.
But when I touched her, her lips found my hand.
When I touched her, she ran the side of her strong,
warm face slowly up my arm to my shoulder and, seeking
breath and the skin of my throat, rested
her forehead there. Star to skin. Blind eyes shut.
When I moved, she moved. I stroked her
side, the brush gentle and rough, cleaned off
dried mud, old straw, the leavings of her
last season’s tough grass and snow and rain.
She was beautiful when I slid the stall door closed
behind me. A perfect arc in her forelock, her eyes
speckled moons in the ruddy dawn of her face.
I left her there beneath that place of high wooden beams,
The faint lights hanging, bleeding brief and useless heat.
Cold sun outside the stable and on the frozen field.
The cloud of rooks circles high in widening ripples,
just as a shot's echo draws rings in the night’s black air.
This is a cruel season, and it can only end in grief.