he will carefully foldhis coonskin Davy Crockettunder his pillow and reachfor some stalwart story to hold himup over the black roarof Mother not speaking,of Father not speaking, of the tin roofleaking, of the closet’s shit-can smelling,of the rotting corpse of grandmother mumblingnext door, of the other stories whispering,all the million little onesnibbling and bullyinguntil tears begin feedingthe roar into flood.
It was in the back orchard I fell
reaching for a Maiden’s Blush apple,
sun-crowned with peach-pink cheeks.
Nothing but the air to fall
through, the sky turning
away, and I lay there without tears,
just looking around for my breath
and the apple clenched in my fist.
Under my jaw, the scar, a small worm of flesh.
It was my first boon from the long land of memory
where screams drowned the night,
then receded with the stitch-work
of the mysterious old and their stories,
stories like a skin within which I could hide, a skin
wedded seamlessly to my nightshirt
that I could pull on over my head and so,
on lucky nights, disappear and go deaf
with only this ringing, as an old man,
reminding me of what I’ve shut out
and from which I’m still running, still falling,
fists clenched, but the sky, the sky turning
its cheek now, slowly, at last, towards me.
Pinned to the breast of the hill, a clutch of spring beauties,
a living brooch, and within
miner bees busy working for honey.
It’s April, and a spray of spidery twigs
frames the swift sky overhead.
Below, a grackle’s mechanical pacing
of the minutes left within this poem
calls me to attention.
Constable’s clouds are singing
the dark songs of Hampstead and Keats
…save what from heaven is with the breezes blown . . .
How do I know this?
A poet told me.
How else do I learn what matters?
I grab a fistful of coins and fling them
onto the sloping lawn
where they catch the sun
like the eyes of Cinderella’s silver mice.
All goes on and outwards, even the stories.
The only flag to raise in the midst of all this
is the white flag—you know the one.
(The quotation is from “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats.)
In the bricked-up sky
a late, azure light
pools along the horizon.
A moment later, three crows lift, silently,
into the now spreading dark
and are gone.
I turn away from the field, the west, turn
towards the east, the woods
looming with a blurring tracery
of branch shadows and snow.
There is a balancing in these changes
unrelated to me, yet . . .
I declare this moment has come
only to me, only now
and somehow almost forever.