“YOU ARE TRAPPED IN THAT BRIGHT MOMENT WHERE YOU LEARNED YOUR DOOM”*
* Samuel R. Delany, The Fall of the Towers
six fighter planes
flew over our barn, following
the roof line straight across the island
and on to Brunswick Naval Air Station.
Long before they appeared
– low, loud, swift against high azure –
their rush and rumble announced them.
I stopped, standing between
my husband and my father,
and held my hand to my eyes,
searching the skies for whatever
made the air around me
and the earth beneath me thrum.
And, for a moment,
we were no longer nearly
three years and nearly
four hundred miles away
from that high blue September morning.
Moonlight frosts the lawn,
silvers the oak leaves,
moves from your hip to
your shoulder to your cheek
as I doze and wake, doze and wake.
The peepers have been calling for hours,
long enough for their song to
become as much a part of the
night’s silence as the potting shed,
the rose bush, the picnic table
you painted last week.
When the moon passes behind
a neighbor’s tree line, I
step out on the upstairs deck.
The air is moist with soon-to-be dew.
Ten feet below, the frogs still sing.
We are passing through the Pleiades.
First one, then three, then half-a-dozen
silver arcs appear against the sky.
Hands against the railing, I watch
until it seems I can feel the Earth’s slow turning,
until I can see nothing but blue and silver
stars picked out against the ebony quilt of the sky.
Hands and feet chilled by weather-silvered wood,
I go back inside
to lie beneath these sheets,
beneath our roof,
and listen to you breathe.
CABINET de TRAVAIL
for Mary Ann Caws
The book and candle in our ambered room.
— Wallace Stevens
Only now, when the moon has
passed over the roof line,
when the window shows nothing but
dark night, and its darker shadows;
only now that the dog has settled
in front of the banked kitchen stove,
now that the children are
nestled in their bedclothes like
field mice in excelsior;
only now can she begin.
She lights the candle, throwing
for an instant her own dark cameo
against the oak and plaster wall,
until the flame settles to burn steadily.
Blue shawl about her shoulders,
hair a golden coronet in the candleglow,
she sits, caught in an oval of amber light,
the Madonna of the Inkwell.
BURNING ANGELS: MARCH 25, 1911
Women stand in windows, flames at their feet.
Dark smoke builds to cover Washington Place.
It’s raining children on Greene Street.
The wooden ladders cannot bridge the great
distance between the sidewalk and splintered casements.
Women stand on ledges, flames at their feet.
Hair streaming, coat smoking, a girl leaps,
drops like a bolt of cloth with a soot-stained face.
It’s raining children. On Greene Street,
men curse as women jump from killing heights
and death-crazed horses fight their traces.
Girls stand on ledges, flames at their feet.
Rusted metal buckles, snaps. Firemen weep
as two flame-winged angels fall in a smoky embrace.
It’s raining. Children on Greene Street
gaze at those impaled on iron fence spikes, at eight
rows of bodies that fill sidewalk’s empty space.
Girls stand in windows, flames at their feet.
It’s raining children on Greene Street.
They come down from the mountain,
my husband, my son.
The old man, nearly giddy,
swings the boy up
over his shoulder, then down
below his knees.
The breeze carries
and the smell of sun-warmed rocks.
Now at the mountain’s base
two figures so alike,
one tall, one small.
My husband pauses, eyes closed,
palm cupping the boy’s head.
Mountain dust and rust-colored
spots dot the cloak he carries.
His beard and hair flame silver in the sun.
The boy bumps his father’s hip,
runs to bury his smile in my skirt.
Down still shines on his child’s neck.
My son laughs, runs back to his
father who swings his boy-child up
against his heart.
They rock, the arm-cradled child
restless, asking to get down.
My husband watches,
as my son begins to talk.
A pile of wood, a thorn-plucked ram,
he babbles as,
behind his father’s still-broad back,
clouds – rose, aubergine and grey –
build around the mountain’s peak.
“You Are Trapped in That Bright Moment Where You Learned Your Doom” and “Nondum Cognita” won 1st and 3rd prize respectively in The Seacoast Writers Association’s 19th Annual Poetry Contest, and appeared in the October 2011 issue of the Association’s journal, Currents VII.
“Cabinet de Travail” won Honorable Mention in the 22nd Annual Poetry Contest of the California State Poetry Society (September 2008) and appeared in California Quarterly, 34:4 (Winter 2009).
“Burning Angels: March 25, 1911” appeared in Villanelles, edited by Annie Finch, Marie-Elizabeth Mali and Patricia Smith, New York and London: Everyman’s Library, 2012.
“Sarah” appeared in The AFCU Journal 3.1 (Spring 2006).