|Jul/Aug 2008 Poetry|
During the night we heard the wind cause
its own punctuations of shattering glass
as one vase after another filled with a harvest
of June flowers crashed to the porch floorboards:
a brief rain of petals and glass in our summer rain of sleep.
Sunday morning, we surveyed the effulgent chaos--
petals and fractured stems of lavender, hyacinth,
and lilies scattered among the shards of glass.
In no hurry to see it gone, we sat on the swing
drank coffee, its flavor laced with the moist scents
we let surround us. I retrieved the broom,
a corn husk antique, swept for a moment,
stopped to sit by you again.
Throughout the late morning we passed the broom
back and forth, taking a few strokes in a game
of giving one another respite. The porch swing
hinges left deliberately unoiled, played the soft creaks
of early summer violins. Later, a glass of lemonade,
we passed it back and forth.
The sun rose higher. We let our eyes close.
We cleared more debris, took intermission,
again played the sweeping game
until we believed that along with the residue
of chaos we had swept every shadow away.
It is only now as I watch you sleep
in a cloudless night that I realize it
was during the pauses, as we seemed to rest
in the music of the swing, it was there,
then, that we had made the shadows vanish.
In a Calmer Year
Even now, a spring downpour will
expose, on the outskirts of Gettysburg,
a few more bones: a fibula,
a broken clavicle, a shattered rib.
There are no new ways to say
death and the dead were everywhere.
From the same bolts of fabric,
blankets were cut back home
to swaddle the children of the living
and the newly dead here wrapped
in their woolen coffins,
tossed in the meadows,
on the ridges, into hurried graves
dug by troops moving out.
It was their final sacrifice,
it was for the chance of a future victory
to be treated so,
to wait for a calmer year,
to be reclaimed and reinterred
in the long valleys of sorrow:
Arlington, Sharpsburg, Mill Springs, Murfreesboro,
Fredericksburg, Stones River, Andersonville,
Cold Harbor, Poplar Grove, Gettysburg itself.
They are the gouges of mourning that ripped slowly
across the landscape as the glacier of war receded.
The ante-bellum sun shone on the farmlands
and the cities, preparing as it would, to shine on blood.
And now, here it shines its somnambulant winter light.
My heart wants to imagine it is the stitches
that hold these three suns together,
but made from a poor man's thread,
it burns away, helpless until it all comes undone
leaving behind only cemeteries of sunshine
that live inside the blood.