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If Not Holy
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When we learned
that we were orphans now,
all the brothers gathered
and her tribe around us.

I myself left my window,
left the red newt in the shadow
of the raging zucchini blossom,
left the handprints of raccoons
and opossum on the sodden
maple leaves like dried blood
along the corridors of woods,
left the hair of wildcats, knitted
into nests of songbirds.

Not our mother but an effigy mother
in the vestibule.
We looked to faded photographs
to see her smiling, in her arms
those children we have been.

How we sang!
And if the old church cracked
with joy, our hearts were broken
and their fullness pouring out.

When the young men of us
had carried the white box to the field,
the blind preacher once again denied
the new name of the old
is always Dead.

Then were we asked to go away
and not to see the casket sink
for all we know into everlasting
solace of the earth.

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

What else but love and loss
would call and cause
that intensity of song we did?
I say it was our home.

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

So I returned to smell
of woodsmoke in the silent house
like residue of vanished life.
To the gray heron
immersed to his chest
in the freshened lily pond.

To the feeling that
some glade, some moss green
stone in these woods could be,
if not holy, at least
a place to kneel down.

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.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Daniel Lusk. "If Not Holy." Southern Review 49.3 (2013): 386-387. Project MUSE. Web. 18 Jul. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Lusk, D.(2013). If Not Holy. Southern Review 49(3), 386-387. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Daniel Lusk. "If Not Holy." Southern Review 49, no. 3 (2013): 386-387. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 18, 2013).
T1 - If Not Holy
A1 - Daniel Lusk
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 3
SP - 386
EP - 387
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.3.lusk.html
N1 - Volume 49, Number 3, Summer 2013
ER -


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