She came to read her poems— those straight-talk towers of brick and mortar—and to speak of the cracked earth and seething rock beneath them. Each poem, a requiem for the rubble she stood in: the twentieth century that cast her and cost her. A serious woman who spent her life spending every thing she had. Outside the room, winter maples organized themselves against the sky, and sparrows pecked at what they could find as they had always done. And we, of the chicken salad and buttered roll, folded our linen napkins, laid down our silver, and hushed— waiting for gold. But as soon as she mounted the stage and leaned to the microphone, we leaned back and away in our chairs. You could barely discern it, but yes, back away is what we did, for in her voice and in the match strike of her eyes, she flared fire, and I saw again the ghost of the old refinery, the one [End Page 524] off Township Line Road, its towers lighting the night sky, each burning off in one pure flame the impurities we were. You see, she spoke true. She spoke witness. And we knew it. [End Page 525]
What does day want but blue—all cloud complications pushed through sweet as blues through a trombone or water riding the elbow under a sink.
What does night want but simple—A into slot B, C into D, and all constellations clicked into place, not a ruckus between them. Each star a saint, subsisting on its diet of burning.
But in between, in the gentle hour before dawn when time spins pointlessly on its spindle and sky doesn’t know coming or going, what could that want? Outside my window winter twigs arch before a backdrop of roseate light. A scroll unrolled. A silk to read and read by. Peach blossoms of winter, having slipped their petaled outlines and escaped. [End Page 526]
Alice Friman was named 2012 Georgia Author of the Year for Poetry for her latest collection, Vinculum. A recipient of a Pushcart prize, she serves as Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College in Milledgeville.