Clod & Pebble

a place for poetry

“Artless” by Brenda Shaughnessy

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less

substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less.

Fatted from the day,
overripe and even
toxic at eve. Nonetheless,

in the end, if you must
know, if I must bend,

to that excruciation.
No marvel, no harvest
left me speechless,

yet I find myself
somehow with heart,

With heart,
fighting fire with fire,

That loud hub of us,
meat stub of us, beating us

Spectacular in its way,
its way of not seeing,
congealing dayless

but in everydayness.
In that hopeful haunting
(a lesser

way of saying
in darkness) there is

for the pressing question.
Heart, what art you?
War, star, part? Or less:

playing a part, staying apart
from the one who loves,

“Love, with Trees and Lightning” by Catie Rosemurgy.

I’ve been thinking about what love is for.
Not the obvious part where he gathers
until he is as purposeful inside her
as an electrical storm, not when he breaks
into a thanks so bright it leaves her
split like a tree. (We all jolt back,
our picnic ten shades lighter, our hands
clapped over awe that’s too big for our mouths.)

But the two of them, afterwards,
tasting the electricity, nibbling
the charge on the ions. When her pulse
has already risked coming to meet him
at the window of her skin. When what is left
of his body still feels huge, and he sits draped
in his fine, long coat of animal muscles
but uses all his strength to be almost imperceptible.
They curl up, make their bodies the same size,
draw promises in one another’s juices.
“You,” they say. I love it when they say that.

Would that they could give a solid reason.
Sometimes they even refuse to try.
They make jokes while cinching their laces.
“I’ll call soon,” he says. “You’re so sweet,”
she says, but the rank sugar of his breath
doesn’t summarize the world for her.
“Not you,” they say.

And nothing bad has happened.
They just turn the doorknob that has been
shining in their hands the whole time, walk out,
and continue to die. Same as the rest of us.
So maybe love is a form of crying. Or maybe
it’s our way of finishing what the leaves have started
and turning a brilliant color before we hit the ground.
Name one living thing that doesn’t somehow bloom.
None of them get to choose the right conditions.
Think of chemical fires or ghost orchids.

Maybe one body is simply insufficient.
So they change their minds and decide
to stand by one another’s side for years.
They bring flowers and carpet and children
into the act. They refuse to move, ever.
They act as if they’ve found the only hospitable
spot on earth. I love it when they do that.

“Moorings” by Ruth Padel.

Darkness. For the first time you hear
The body that has made itself core
Of the universe (or anyway, you reckon now,
Or yours), slacken its guy-ropes for sleep

As if mile-deep water
Were slap-settling round you in a lake
Whose speedboat carnivals, much as you adored
The show they made, have gone.

It’s a website of alien muscles
Losing their hair-trigger touch on a soul
Blowing Christ knows where. This is all
New. But you say

(To him, to yourself),
I’ll follow, if you give the sign.

“Elegy” by Carol Ann Duffy.

Who’ll know then, when they walk by the grave
where your bones will be brittle things – this bone here
that swoops away from your throat, and this,
which perfectly fits the scoop of my palm, and these
which I count with my lips, and your skull,
which blooms on the pillow now, and your fingers,
beautiful in their little rings – that love, which wanders history,
singled you out in your time?

Love loved you best; lit you
with a flame, like talent, under your skin; let you
move through your days and nights, blessed in your flesh,
blood, hair, as though they were lovely garments
you wore to pleasure the air. Who’ll guess, if they read
you stone, or press their thumbs to the scars
of your dates, that were I alive, I would lie on the grass
above your bones till I mirrored your pose, your infinite grace?

“The Wish of the Brother with a Swan’s Wing” by Nancy Willard.

As soon as the shirts touched them, the swan skins fell off, and her brothers stood before her in the flesh. Only the youngest was missing his left arm, and he had a swan’s wing on his shoulder instead. – “The Six Swans”, The Brothers Grimm

To meet his left arm again.
To pick up pebbles and skip them.
To close ten fingers over a pearl
of great price. To wind the gold stem
of his watch. Or not wind it.
To stop time. To walk up and speak to her.
To play Chopin and move the minutes
to tears. To carve her name on a bench.
To lift her chin toward his mouth.
To dance with her, one hand at the small
of her back, the other clasping her fingers
lightly – they are so small, like the bones
of a bird! With his strong left hand,
to slip a gold band on her finger.
To throw off his shirt, blue as the asters,
that his sister wove from the wild stars
of the field. To be broken yet whole, a ring
of still water. To sleep with his bride
on the floor of a white boat as it floats
out to sea. To carry her on the water’s
shoulders. To shelter her
under his wing.

“Lies I’ve Told My 3 Year Old Recently” by Raul Gutierrez.

Trees talk to each other at night.
All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.
Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.
Tiny bears live in drain pipes.
If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.
The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.
Everyone knows at least one secret language.
When nobody is looking, I can fly.
We are all held together by invisible threads.
Books get lonely too.
Sadness can be eaten.
I will always be there.

“The Nature of Things” by Helen Heath.

My hand runs over
my distended belly.
I think of my mother,
her own bulge,
talking to my father about getting ready
for when the baby came.
Did she notice his tears?
The morphine
and tumours in her belly and brain
removed her completely
from the present.
I dreamt last night of my daughter
ripping her way out of me
like an alien.

“Untitled” by Wendell Barry.

To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust Museum
on the day of the burial of Yitzak Rabin, November 6th 1995.

Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,

for I know you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know

there is no answer
but loving one another
even our enemies, and this is hard.

But remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.

You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you have the courage for love,
you may walk in light. It will be

the light of those who have suffered
for peace. It will be
your light.

“A Birthday” by W. S. Merwin.

Something continues and I don’t know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way language
but they are all anonymous
and it’s almost your birthday music next to my bones

these night we hear the horses running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers slips through the dark house
down near the sea the slow heart of the beacon flashes

the long way to you is still tied to me but it brought me to you
I keep wanting to give you what is already yours
it is morning of the mornings together
breath of summer oh my found one
the sleep in the same current and each waking to you

what I open my eyes you are what I wanted to see

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