"the sunlight has never
heard of trees" ~ A. R. Ammons
Twenty years ago, this girl who wanders
down to two fruit trees in late September
breathed through tubes while I pressed
my forehead hard against the incubator’s glass.
February nights when the baby almost died,
walking home mute in the winter rain, I
prayed for insensate Sun that makes the fruit
on the branches swing and drop to Earth.
Doctors said my child would live.
Early this morning before breakfast
my daughter walks across the lawn
to gather apples in the dawn.
Against the window pane, my face
still presses toward the beloved one:
ripening fruit, the pouring rain, the sun,
a daughter’s grace.
Gardens emptied of swiftness of ponies they rode
summers the children vanished from the yard,
blur of imagined appaloosas and pintos,
flashing pastures from which they’d been barred,
swinging splashing ponds, the leaping waters,
shadows bodies swam through like happy otters.
Barely detectable autumn breezes began
whispering through blue cornflowers and Queen Anne’s
Lace, and grazed green water, dragonflies silvery gilt,
turtles, sunning themselves, grown bold.
Under the tire-swing water clarified, grew gold,
churning the sense of purpose settled like silt.
Ponies’ heavy heads leaned on the fence.
Where things once galloped, stillness recommenced.
The purple iris draw the fragrant curtain
to summer’s entrance: the heat of crumbling mortar
of brick, the scent of flesh behind the flowers.
A man in pastel shorts, my father stoops
over a heap of embers, rib-eye, smoke.
A blue merle collie flaps its feathered tail.
A boy, my older brother, gone these thirty years,
is speaking words that spiral into willows.
Marmota monex grazes on switch grass,
on crab grass gone to seed out back,
scuttles through azaleas, pauses,
to chew on honeysuckle vine and sumac.
Ears, infested with lice and fleas, twitch.
Fractured by hairline cracks, yellow teeth
glisten. It balances on hind paws, listens
for red-tailed hawk above, for fox beneath
the dogwood trees. The woodchuck doesn’t see
the homo sapien kneeling near its snout
behind the sliding door, so close that she
is almost me until I rap the glass, slide out.
Giant Leopard Moth in Church Parking Lot
Nature is a place we’re astray and helpless:
nests of fledglings fallen too early, broken;
wasps’ nests tumbled, crumbled like bread by branches
into the altars.
Church is what we can resurrect, replenish:
steeples cracked and Tiffany windows splintered,
soldered whole again by a master workman
Giant Leopard Moth on its back in gravel
struggles first then motionless lies in sunlit
parking, sparkling feelers a-swaying windward
Churches, moth wings, frailties furnish Earth’s pews:
mountains, humans, breakable shadows, arching
transepts, bone house splintering, weathered floorboards,
Katherine Smith has work published or forthcoming in a number of journals and reviews, among them Atlanta Review, Poetry, Unsplendid, Antiphon, Poetry, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Atlanta Review, Appalachian Heritage, and The Laurel Review. Her poetry collection is Argument by Design (Washington Writers’ Publishing, 2003). Raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Katherine lives in Maryland where she teaches at Montgomery College.