Here the ghosts walk on past. At the last
turn in the paths small creatures have carved,
where locust thorns snatch our sleeves,
low-coiled briars burn in reddening light.
Something else stands between us
and where we are headed—
more than these nettles
in bent grass, more than the cold air
that strains the breastbone and teeth.
A few more steps and we might know
what lies behind the cracked door
on perception’s edge, the light within
it the color of sweet backwater,
the kind that wants to be snowmelt,
so blue it hurts to witness, to taste.
So let’s walk
through these slender asters,
bind the gap between silence and syntax.
Let’s watch the contexts of silences
as they turn like embryos in the many wombs
of air, wheeling in orchard sheds and the ossuaries
of distant pines. Let’s take these soft stones
and feel them to know their mother,
the glacier that birthed this pasture, nurturer
of knapweed and loosestrife, thorn moths
until the ghosts come back.
If we move on, they will lift their liquid heads
like strange birds and open
their throats, utter everything that is grass and tooth,
door and bloom, answer what we have
yet to ask, their voices pulsing
through the bright seeds
of their mysterious hearts.
Elegy for the Man in My Periphery
He’s the one of tin roofs and swift storms,
the one who upended the night
to watch the moon drown.
He’s the one who worshiped blight
and the battered dark, who savored
fall dusks that skinned trees alive
with that quick, failing light. Now
that he is gone, I may come to love
him, his name being my own,
even as I always missed him edge
the rain-pits and marsh hummocks,
even as he shirked plain sight
to study the toothache tree’s
leaflets, the green-yellow glow
of its blossoms.
One day I may come to understand
his refusal to love me back,
that lack like a nick
in the soft flesh between the thumb
and forefinger. And if there is one
thing I want to understand, it’s why
he hitchhiked across ten counties, hopped trains
and leaned into the fire of stars
to shroud himself in the smells
of sawmills and rusted coulters;
to murmur the name of someone I loved
just as I would walk away.
If he’s really gone, why do the shallons
and shagbark hickories burn
with their understory?
Why do I see him now,
stalking apple and walnut groves,
where he stops to witness
the larvae of coddling moths
writhe through every fruit?
Mother of this valley, the moss and fern
wilt in drought; the sun wrests water
to trickling shadow.
The mountain kneels. The seep creaks
stone with benzodiazepine,
a stranded trout with phosphine
sediment. Down a mile, the silt
slags with runoff from a meth house
where water falls harder
from an incoming rivulet
to create broken confluence,
suds that shake dark with rust.
Mother of this valley, the wind
mists the air creatureless,
the wind winds chains
around the throats
of the saw-whet owls. After rain,
the stone reeks: nail polish
and the insoluble
unction of rust.
Ready more poetry from William Wright appearing in Terrain.org.
Photo of pasture courtesy Pixabay.