June 28, 2012KR OnlineSpecial Collections

The Altar Needlework; How Morning Comes, Out of Sleep; The Sunny Day

First published in The Kenyon Review, New Series, Vol. 12, No. 3, (Summer, 1990).

The Altar Needlework

She who created
     sits, she mollusks somewhere,
sits in a family room
     on Herring Creek,
in front of Nature or
     Your Wild America, sits
postparturient from these her creatures;
     but she’s abstracted here,
by no means here,
     not in this empty one-room church
all whirling arches; altar replenished
     with thick wool palette-stitches;
her fat wool stitches crosses,
     double crossed.

In the image of her Creek
     she fashioned them:
beatified blotched frog,
     the feathered Red, the papered yellow Wings.
Inviting knees: fall on
     the Herring pine-skeins
fine as shad bones;
     fall on the bristly pink
azalea’s microsporophyll:
     bury your knees in pardon,
     mute hosanna.
Just missing is the quail’s
voice and the chirp of creek;
but they’re not far; half in the air,
     my snail’s horns listening
here in this church inherited.
     The pattée cross
aloft hangs,
     ethered up.
The passion flower
     irrays out its nails.

She used her eyes up,
     these envisaging:
the pepper on the robin’s chin,
     the minnow’s slippy scales,
egg pollen on the bee’s foot. She
     callused knowing fingers
making, making.
snipped her off
     and cut her out
and wove her thus
     a small and female thing
blue eyed, fine fingered.
                                    Him they call Father:
I taken my blue eyes from him,
     my making hands, no doubt.

How Morning Comes, Out of Sleep

(It comes) surprised
on the face of the clock.

     Innocent, night-wise.
     Fisticuffs and running quit,
     turned to repose
     supine on my pillow,
     sleepchatter stilled.

(It comes) out of dream billow,
whole mansions docked
to my footboard.

     My youth and the dead thereof,
     the farflung thereof,
     distant as jasper shores,
     the smell of a pressed rose.

Griefs lying tranquil,
ache sedated.

     Pale day lighting up,
     a future stated
     in the length
     of an intimate mattress,
     the four walls
     of a room adorned
     with shafts of the world
     projecting through windows.

Singing: I was born! I was born!

The Sunny Day

Suddenly it’s dark.
Since noon from my desk I’ve watched
two boys play at rescuing
a gosling gone over the pond dam
into my creek, detached
from his goose tribe
by street and culvert.

I heard his startled cheep
eluding them time after time;
their childish disappointed cries.
I almost called to them:
The alligator sleeps there.
But the sun was saying otherwise.
And, of course, they knew.

Resting from the typewriter,
I watched, across the street,
young couples walk babies
and adopted dogs around the pond,
puppies twinkling on a leash
in the new sun.
A paper picnic in a pick-up
tossed scraps out to the long-necked geese
sailing the pond starchily,
examples of and to
non-accident-prone issue.
I worked on, withdrawn
among inside reflections.

Suddenly it’s quiet. They’re gone,
dogs and babies gone, picnickers gone.
I turn the light on,
go to close the door and pull the drapes,
being alone in the house.
Up from the walled creek
in the inching dark
the gosling’s calling,
loud and articulate,
to vanished pond
to pond’s reflections of the sky,
to sun, to the thermometer—
articulate and loud—
it strikes me,
peculiarly an adult cry.