Behind Food Lion, Pulaski, VA
You Don't Know What Happened When You Froze
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.
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
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
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