08 April 2008

sell me a peach o' the ba ho

Behind Food Lion, Pulaski, VA

You Don't Know What Happened When You Froze
--Talvikki Ansel

When buck fever struck,
you stood stiff, unable
to pull the trigger while the herd
crashed past you and
into the woods.

Your cousins--who, one night
when you were all boys, scared
you in a pine grove with a candle
in a cow skull--carried
you to a clearing; they loosened
your hunting vest,
gave you a flask of Jack Daniel's,
and you remembered nothing.

Last night you dreamt of a room--
a room full of fish,
and a swimming pool
where you waded knee-deep
and hauled them all in

except for one, already dead,
a large bluefish wedged
into a corner, its back stiff.

You remember it later: its eye
like a button,
a button on another person's coat.

--Talvikki Ansel

Summer's over, and we never even
drank at the Ocean House, that yellow
elegance they'll tear down this year.
Wind sweeps the locust leaves sideways,
I read the journals
of Dorothy Wordsworth: the lucid days,
walks, wet skirts twisted around ankles,
scrambles up rocks and through damp fields.
Swallows nest above her cottage window.
She bakes bread, cuts and turns sheets,
papers a room. Dinner in bed for her brother
William, mutton. John, the other brother,
captain of a great ship bound for China.
Lowering clouds and a swallow swept sideways,
comfrey and laudanum sleep, all gone now,
those torn-up lives. A storm knocks windows.
Windfalls, hard green knobs in the grass,
gather wasps in the orchard.
Half-rotted, wormy, the ones we found here,
boiled and boiled to a pale jelly, celandine,
or someone's hesitant birthstone.
I stash a jar in the back cupboard,
for good luck, sweet talisman against rot.

A Man Born in the Forest
--Frank Stanford

Just like a light-skinned woman
there was a deer
to come out of the Snow Lake Woods
and speak to my father
I saw him
take off his pants
and his Panama hat blew
along the rabbit's hideout

Living with Death
--Frank Stanford

Long ago a man came to our place
With his daughter
It was evening when they arrived
In their wagon

They had a white piano

They asked only to stay the night
For room and board
They said they'd clean the barn

I looked out my window until dawn
Counting the peaches

The maid gave me rags
For the hot pot of coffee
She gave me to take them

I hadn't even milked
Hadn't sung to the fish
But they'd stacked sacks of manure
And sharpened all the tools

So I went to the pump
And found the daughter washing there

She said Death won't dare
Touch a hair on our heads

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