Terrain.org Columns.




Jake Adam York


Panoramic: Landscape With Repeating Figures

Scroll of darkness, power out, down, a fog set in, no stars or lightning bugs, no sodium haze. Unearthly dark few will remember.

Then, at left, static, subatomic streams scatter and resolve, a copse, contradictory spread from the blank: boxwood, sumac, smilax, suckle, scrub oak, dogwood, saplings: a dim explosion with a calf nested in its jets, a single face clouded by warmth.

Face in a crease of rising bank as the pasture shoulders free, the lens swinging around to catch her, the rise shielding movement. The light

comes to reveal feed grass and weed, shock of blades and tall stalks bending in slight wind, blur, expressed from every inch of hoof-beaten ground, variable to graph the chewing and movements otherwise uncaptured here.

In the thickening grass, legs sharpen upward, cropped with plaid and fleece-lined denim, and beneath the ball-cap the eyes, carved and carving, in early light. The pastureland falls toward the pond dug so the cattle could cool in swelters, a morning like this, frost glazing in silver-gelatin tones,

ideal for the half-ton bulls, leather and wool. The clouds of their breathing smudge, like the ghost of his walking along the dark thicket edge of the field, tangle where coyotes wait.

Rise. Rise. Flash off the tin roof of the cabin, walls dropped, opened, screened again for a room open to the wind, and the barn, framed and rebuilt again and again, and the horse whose mane catches latening sun like grass or corn tassels, the strands caught and blurred in wind. Where ice has frozen in hoof-wells and tire-wells, light gathering to molten.

Crest, fall. Terraces dim beneath the grass and strew of hay. Shock of pine and oak rising from creekbed. Slow grade of day into shadow and canopied dark, tangle and reticulation haunted by thrashers, flickers, snakes, dogs, stray calves drowning in separation.

Slowly, the house resolving, a light in a window, a face framed but moving, lost in the grain. A boot, crusted with mud, by the door, pasture crusting off. Ghost of a foot blurring in the door. Yard and road, hay-barn, power-lines. Constellation of subdivision lights. Expanse of golf-course and empty lots. A silence of bulldozed earth, fading, masked and failing, vaporizing into thinner and thinner films, until the salts are altogether dry and quiet, dark.

Unearthly. Black.



Double Exposure

Not even a father yet
my grandfather leans against
the grille of his ’46 Packard,
new chrome blinding

even in black-and-white.
His white slacks billow
like a skirt in the wind.
His hair is perfectly still.

The war is behind him.
The road winds up from the farm.
One cornhusk hand
slips from the fender

and into the fingers
that ghost his fingers,
the thin, delicate lace
that haunts his hems.

The more I look, the more
he looks like someone else,
ringlets massing in his hair,
the gaze gone strangely tender,

and the smile now doubly bright—
bright as the rings on his finger
casting what they cannot hold,
as if ready to part, to say

what’s hidden’s never hid
but beating like a second heart,
a second pulse in the pulse
that runs through everything.



Elegy for Little Girls

Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, September 16th 1963        

Puncture the mud, the iron pours out


tongue of fire, not a word


stays still but breaks along the channels


pressed in the cast floor’s sand.


Now it’s pigs suckling at the sow’s


iron teats, so many children blind


to the air and world that harden them.


A gift. Dark come on. When


the slag-man pulls the plug, fire


explodes, its violent, molten light


bathes the irons, a glow on their spines


like stained glass or twilight fades


on headstones’ crests, row on row on row.


Jake Adam York is an Alabama native now living in Denver, where he teaches for the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center. His book of poems Murder Ballads will be published in November 2005 by Elixir Press. He is a co-editor of storysouth.com.
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