Monday, September 24, 2012

Bad News

                              I

The bad news has arrived. A home drama
          begins with a woman fainting.
A cold cloth is administered by a daughter
          who has not read the note.
She thinks first of her mother sagging in a chair
          who is quite pale and breathless.
A dog stands at their feet and tilts his head
          as if wondering what is happening.  
She like the dog is arrested by the act and not
          the substance of the event,
which is too charged to consider. She attains distance
          by hovering over the victim
who is part mother and part alien. The two
          figures are alight with color
and the dark surface in the rear is leaden with objects.
          She would break away
if she could, but she is bound by conditions and bends
          sturdily like a weathered elm.


                              II

She is content with the small space allotted
          to her each morning.
There are things she would ask for if such questions
          could be mouthed to the walls,
but she knows less than the sparrow who chirps wildly,
          and habit reassures her.
She acts instantaneously when the earth darkens
          and knows the peach season
like the veins in her arms. She steps firmly into
          the rain and is confident
about the nature of adversity. The ordeals
          of the doe and the rabbit are poems
she has written when the moon rusted and coiled in the night.
          All sounds are familiar
and nothing less than a person with a hard glance
          can startle her back. She has passed
hours by the drapes and the green birds on the rugs
          are croaking horrible suggestions.

              
                              III

The thick figure of her mother rises and crumples
          the note. The young woman
stares at it as it quickens with flies. She is
          alert and about the evening
and the chores she does are her boundaries. She sweeps up
          the bones, for there is no
waste she will not endure. The night wind
          feeds on the shingles and the door
creaking by the stairs is the closet that swallows
          her up. She thinks deeply
about the cataclysms that rupture the summer,
          the small weeks piling
up in the hayloft because she has forgotten
          to use them. She is silent, as the minutes
are played out, and palms her lyrics as her mother
          sighs to the north. She gestures
reasonably and they nod, the ups and downs
          of the tragedy still to come.


(This poem appeared in College English.)


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