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If Not Holy
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If Not Holy

When we learnedthat we were orphans now,all the brothers gatheredand her tribe around us.

I myself left my window,left the red newt in the shadowof the raging zucchini blossom,left the handprints of raccoonsand opossum on the soddenmaple leaves like dried bloodalong the corridors of woods,left the hair of wildcats, knittedinto nests of songbirds.

Not our mother but an effigy motherin the vestibule.We looked to faded photographsto see her smiling, in her armsthose children we have been.

How we sang!And if the old church crackedwith joy, our hearts were brokenand their fullness pouring out.

When the young men of ushad carried the white box to the field,the blind preacher once again deniedthe new name of the oldis always Dead. [End Page 386]

Then were we asked to go awayand not to see the casket sinkfor all we know into everlastingsolace of the earth.

What was it we believed?What was shewho would agree at last to leave?

What else but love and losswould call and causethat intensity of song we did?I say it was our home.

We sang our wild songsand agreed to live on.Her tribe and legacy.

So I returned to smellof woodsmoke in the silent houselike residue of vanished life.To the gray heronimmersed to his chestin the freshened lily pond.

To the feeling thatsome glade, some moss greenstone in these woods could be,if not holy, at leasta place to kneel down. [End Page 387]

Daniel Lusk

Daniel Lusk is author of Lake Studies: Meditations on Lake Champlain and a companion audiobook, The Inland Sea: Reflections, as well as Kissing the Ground: New & Selected Poems. Winner of a Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, his poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, and American Poetry Review. He lives in Vermont with his wife, poet Angela Patten.