Elegy from Issue 79
While that sheep staggered
up the gravel road, stooped low,
unsheathing seablush from the dirt,
and through a skin of August snow,
or after, when a whisper
warmed the horsetail and the heal-all,
wooing the cows, panning an empire
of reeds for one last pastoral?
While wind plucked everlasting,
miles away in shoaling light
your last words, like a harp string,
snapped: don’t be afraid, you said, and died.
Don’t be afraid, you said, and died
like everybody else, your first cliché.
But day does turn to night,
fallow to seed, hayseed to hay.
Of course you died. But why
should I try stitching wounded air
with breath where yours should ramify
the bloodroot, foxglove, toad’s prayer?
Shepherds plaiting phlox and lily,
filigreeing with their sighs
your vacancy, cannot buck gravity,
or unclot ice, or cauterize
the wind. They loiter and award
prizes for mourning, string a fence
of syllables around their herd
as if to claiming the place grief ends,
language begins. They sing all night.
And so, as when a yearling, spooked,
believes its mother might
be there, I turned and looked.
You weren’t. Upstream,
the bees spit out another hive,
and the she-goat’s twins steam,
Grandfather Sonnet from Issue 79
On driving my grandfather to the hospital after the death
of my mother/his daughter
When all the cows were fat and in the barn,
when the hinges of the weathervane stopped crying,
and after loads of hay brought in still warm
from that day’s sun were bailed and drying,
when all the wheat was threshed and shipped and sold,
when your hands were ripe with calluses and blisters,
and water from the tap was sweet and cold,
when upstairs still slept two brothers and two sisters,
when even magpies slept, and field mice
had gorged themselves on grain, and the stir
of coyotes sounded more like dogs and less
like wolves, when all these things were as they were—
It’s then I wish I could have closed the day
with you, alone, not knowing what to say.