Bluefield, West Virginia
--3 poems by Frank Stanford
Would You Like To Lie Down With the Light On and Cry
My nights are like valleys
Where the night falls soon
And the mist rises early.
The work I do is not easy,
But it is not bad.
When the white barns of the afternoon
Are dark and quiet
With their wasps and snakes
I wonder why we lie to one another:
Spots on the aged
Are called little flowers of the cemetery,
On the young they are marks
Left by the teeth of beauty.
Clutch their genitals
And shake like trestles
When the locomotive of death passes by,
Like their trains
In the trembling bridges of their beds.
When no one is looking
We touch the thin underthings
Of our death to our lips.
I remember my death
And I remember desire,
And they are not the same.
Nine months from tonight
A woman will be holding
Her belly in pain.
There are no starfish in the sky tonight,
But there is one below your belly,
And there are cold evenings in your eyes.
If I could get to your house
I would look under the bed of your childhood,
The tongueless loafer without laces or eyes,
The cave of your young foot
With its odor of moon, its dampness
Coming from underground, your shoe
Which also bled and is now an island.
You have to remember these are the memories
Of a survivor, you have to remember.
You could be looking for clay to haul away,
Fill for the deep washouts of your love.
All your old loves, they bled to death, too.
Your hair is like a cemetery full of hands,
Fingers in the moonlight.
When you come down to the heart
Bring your post-hole diggers and crowbar.
Do not set a corner, a fence won't last.
Do not bury our first child there,
Or set a post,
Although I have tasted blood on the lips of a stranger,
At night and in the run.
While my mother is washing the black socks
Of her religion,
I climb out of the washtub,
Stinking clean like the moon and the suds
In my ass,
The twenty she earned last week in my teeth,
My shoes and my pistol wrapped in my pants,
Slip off the back porch
And head down the road, buck naked and brave,
But lonely, because it's fifteen hours
By bus to the capital
And nobody will know
How it feels to nail down a heart
Black as tarpaper.
Mother, when you beat out my quilt tomorrow,
Remember the down in the sunlight,
Because I did not sleep there.
Remember, come evening, the last hatch of mayflies,
Because I won't.
They are evil, mother, and I am
Going to take it all out, in one motion,
The way you taught me to clean a fish,
Until all that is left is the memory of their voice,
And I will work that dark loose
From the backbone with my thumb.
Mother, the sad dance on fire.
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