27 August 2012

Ann Townsend


Trimmings

Restless, pulled outside by fog
and fitful rain, she carries scissors
and basket to trim the last wild things.

She crouches, wind-shaded,
before parsley, tarragon, thyme:
herbs weep into her hands,

spiders scatter across pine needles.
Half-dark, wholly cold,
the evening of first frost

falls down as rain, cool mouth
against her unprotected neck.
Across the lake her lover waits

in a room warm with smoke,
jukebox's muted melody,
deep brown bottles ranged

across the bar. Once she leaned
into his mouth, whiskey sweet
between them. The tiny napkins

beneath their drinks grew wet
with condensation. Then
their fingers touched,

an accidental convergence of the stars.
She shakes loose a bunch of sage.
It swings like a heavy skirt

in her hands, one caterpillar
dropping free. In the sky
the constellations fuzz and fade.



After the End

Because I left him there so you could see
        his body, broken by the fall, the hawk's

small relatives hopped from higher branches
        and called a kind of glee that he was dead.
               By afternoon, the ground around him dusted

with feathers and gravel kicked up, he looked
        like a bundle of rags tossed

from a car and tumbled there, but still
        graceful, neck flung back in the moss and dirt,
               and the yellow claws curled to question marks.

Then the trees were quiet, the other voices
        gone. When a car turned into the driveway,

I knew it wasn't you. They sat a while,
        four men, the same dark suits, carefully
               tended hair. Missionaries: I could tell

from the window where I stood beyond
        their line of sight. All their doors opened

as if by a common feeling, something
        unseen and insistent in the air.
               They did not see the hawk lying there, dead

from its long fall, or age, or driven down
        by the crows that nest in the pines above.

They did not see me. I stepped back, behind
        the curtain, and wished you home, who could see
               these things and know what is beloved, what is dead.



Mid-February, White Light

Country music and a black dog barking
on a chain, and the voices of grown children
complaining — Dad, when are we going to burn
this pile? — cast over from next door

on the first nearly warm afternoon.
Everyone has come out to see the sun.
Slow bees cluster at the porch step
and the cat has wakened in a pool of light.

So when the chainsaw coughs into gear,
to clear dead wood away from the gas line,
it's like some strange natural description —
the ground frozen in its dream of January

creaking beneath our feet,
the impetus of metal cutting into wood,
the urge to flight when the bee
hazards its way, wind-driven or scent-impelled,

into my hair — to touch, to continue.
Even our unmade bed, framed by the peeling
slats of the bedroom window,
looks not like a tranquil reminder

but disturbed, shaken from a measured stillness
of white sheets, pillows, red quilt
cast on the floor, a reduction from action to disorder.
Or the gift of a warm wind that feels wet.

Ann Townsend


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