I. Servant of God
The pump handle’s iron curves
mark a callused palm with ridges
from seams left at the mold’s joints—
molten echo of how we used to drink.
For our mothers, rich heavy water
splashed, filled with metal. Spills
soaked up with floursack rags, bucket
crowned with pipe smoke drifting down
from an old man’s screened-in porch.
Well water tasted like peace, for a while.
By the time the well dried up, the pump
looked like a broken man, & why bother
to drink from that? Unused iron flakes,
sheds its thin snowy edge. Mud may be
mapped out in oak roots, moss puddles,
an exposed pipe rising out of the ground.
Maybe this creates a childhood. Mine adds
a plastic swing, its swaying frame’s orange paint
oxidized to brown. Forsythia’s thin branches
broken into bloom up against creekstone.
Does a memory, peeled away in layer
after layer, become an etymology?
Outside, when we brush by, corroded
pipes & concrete-sunken frames
stain clothes & skin. Iron dust drifts
like pollen to choke our lungs.
Leaves have squandered their last
chlorophyll—embittered reds, browns
dirtier than sunset. They turn, fall,
linger where they aren’t wanted,
scatter & cling in morning’s fog.
Preserve these tree-lined lanes, these ivy-
choked yards, these farms where fathers
died alone, these rooms where we were poor.
Each childhood’s emblem enshrined,
sheltered as a fallen-away bathtub Virgin.
There are no statues of the patron saint of rust.
There are only photographs, water-stained,
or Polaroids—now separated into layers,
colored in chemical dissolve. Left in piles,
the old maple’s leaves crumble & rot,
cooling air around them stinking like fire.
Hawk. Window. Screen. A boy’s quiet click
of his phone’s pretend shutter. Suction’s
breathy release, as a door prepares to ease away
from its weather-stripped jamb. The hawk
overlooks three yards, a young yellowwood,
the alley behind an upscale restaurant & patio
bar, closed & quiet on our Monday afternoon,
long after the garbage truck’s six a.m. reversal.
The hawk looks at us. Looks away. Door’s
hinges quiet as spring leaves drying in sun.
The hawk hears, aims for the alley, pauses
at the pole centered between alley & fences—
flies away home. One photo from below
the porch roof, a whispered before. Unpictured:
the hawk’s wingspan, its hidden nest (sugar maple?
cell tower?), our compost heap, its sealed decay,
our fear of roaches, rats. One screen, size of
a playing card. Framed grid slicing our claim
into edges & blur. Pixels, their superimposed
perspective. As if a boy & his dog could have
gotten so close. As if, by standing at the back
of our kitchen, we could reach out into nature,
touch all the most majestic parts. As if
we could use our bare hands to separate
the terrier from the squirrel. As if I didn’t
thank the hawk. As if our silent yard
wasn’t always filled with someone’s prey.
Branches as motionless as winter’s
absence. As if the hawk wasn’t easing open
its own slow & silent door.
Emma Aprile’s poetry has appeared in online and print publications including Shenandoah, Antiphon, Nurture, and The Louisville Anthology (Belt Publishing, 2020). Emma holds an MFA from George Mason University, and works as a copyeditor of literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for Sarabande Books and other independent presses. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
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