Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Return

by Frances Richey

What do you say when you've forgotten
how the grass smells,
married to the dark
soil crumbling in your hands?
When the sun makes a bed for you to lie in?
When a voice you've never heard
has missed you,
singing down your bones--
it's taken so long to get here.

Now I'm breathing in the mountains
as if I'd never left.
And when I go inside
I'm surprised to see a lime green worm
has landed on my shorts,
inching his way across a strange white country.

He stops and rises,
leaning out of himself--
a tiny periscope
peering from the glow of the underdream
where there are no symbols for death.

He looks around.

I place my index finger
at the tip of what I guess to be his head,
though I don't see an eye or an ear,
or the infinitesimal feet
as he crawls across my palm--
a warmer planet.

Lately I've wondered
what hand guides my way when I am lost.

I can't feel him
though I see him rise again,
survey the future, flat
and broken into five dead ends.
I curl my fingers to make a cup
and carry him like a blessing to the garden--

What will happen next is a mystery--
to be so light in the world, to leave no tracks.


by Beth Ann Fennelly

Though we vacationed in a castle, though I 
rode you hard one morning to the hum
of bees that buggered lavender, and later
we shared gelato by a spotlit dome
where pigeons looped like coins from a parade--
we weren’t transported back to newlyweds.
We only had a week, between new jobs, 
we both were pinched with guilt at leaving Claire.
When, in our most expensive, most romantic meal,
you laid your sunburned hand upon your heart,
it was just to check the phone was on.

When the trip was good as over--when the train 
would take us overnight to Rome, the flight
would take us home--I had the unimportant
moment I keep having.  I wonder if 
we choose what we recall?  
                            The train 
was unromantic, smoky.  We found a free
compartment, claimed the two bench seats, and eyed 
the door.  Italians who peered in and saw 
your shoes, my auburn hair, our Let’s Go: Rome, 
soon found another car.  And we were glad.  
But then, reluctantly, two couples entered, 
settled suitcases on laddered racks, 
exchanged some cautious greetings, chose their spots.
Then each one turned to snacks and magazines.
The miles scrolled by like film into its shell.
Night fell.  Each took a toothbrush down the hall.
Returned.  Murmured to the one he knew.
The man beside the window pulled the shade.  
We each snapped off our light, slunk down until
our kneecaps almost brushed.  And shut our eyes.

Entwined I found us, waking in the dark. 
Our dozen interwoven knees, when jostled, 
swayed, corrected, swayed the other way.  
Knuckles of praying hands were what they seemed.  
Or trees in old growth forests, familiarly 
enmeshed, one mass beneath the night wind’s breath.
Or death, if we are good, flesh among flesh, 
without self consciousness, for once.  
five years husband, you slept, our fellow travelers
slept, scuttling through black time and blacker space.
As we neared the lighted station, I closed my eyes.  
Had I been caught awake, I would have moved. 


by Carl Phillips

There's an art
   to everything. How
the rain means
   April and an ongoingness like
   that of song until at last

it ends. A centuries-old
   set of silver handbells that
once an altar boy swung,
   processing...You're the same
   wilderness you've always

been, slashing through briars,
   the bracken
of your invasive
   self. So he said,
   in a dream. But

the rest of it—all the rest—
   was waking: more often
than not, to the next
   extravagance. Two blackamoor
   statues, each mirroring

the other, each hoisting
   forever upward his burden of
hand-painted, carved-by-hand
   peacock feathers. Don't
   you know it, don't you know

I love you, he said. He was
   shaking. He said:
I love you. There's an art
   to everything. What I've
   done with this life,

what I'd meant not to do,
 or would have meant, maybe, had I
understood, though I have
 no regrets. Not the broken but
 still-flowering dogwood. Not

the honey locust, either. Not even
   the ghost walnut with its
non-branches whose
   every shadow is memory,
   memory...As he said to me

once, That's all garbage
   down the river, now. Turning,
but as the utterly lost—
   because addicted—do:
   resigned all over again. It

only looked, it—
   It must only look
like leaving. There's an art
   to everything. Even
   turning away. How

eventually even hunger
   can become a space
to live in. How they made
   out of shamelessness something
   beautiful, for as long as they could.