Two April poems from Wake Wake Wake
(First published in Tar River Poetry)
You spade the kitchen garden
each spring, turning the fine,
dark dirt loose from the years.
Gladiolas you planted for your dead wife
sprout again, sharpened green,
opening smaller and smaller
yellow faces that wag red tongues.
You mutter peasant German
going backward in the row,
under a dark moon,
planting peas, planting cabbage
by the signs.
Does the seed know
those stick-shaped words
you never taught me?
At night you walk the rooms
of an unwarmed house,
your steps too short
for a man as tall as you have been.
You write letters in pencil
on blue-lined paper, careful English
dancing in German shoes.
The table where you work is ring-marked:
for years it held plants on saucers, cuttings.
When she died, these died also.
After a time, you stacked the pots
in the cellar.
You write me letters
telling of the cold, of summers
that are shorter and shorter,
and I am south, feeling the sun
earlier and later,
feeling here that I have failed my blood.
Your eyes have become paler blue,
and I would want to say
the color of March sky,
thin lines on paper,
or lilac petals, faded.
They measure out
this distance between us,
the rivers and the days,
and mark out the unseasonable shadows
that sharpen along the road home.
Hanging Up Clothes
(First published in The Greenfield Review)
Out in the last fine rain,
the light red in the west,
after the storm.
A delight for the eye
A deer comes from the wood line
and stands deep in daisies,
My white-flag work
does not frighten her.
The red light glows
in her summer coat.
The light is red.
The deer grazes.
I move from line to line.