- Two Songs, and: Cathay
What woke me that night was not,As I'd first thought, winds rattlingThe dead limbs of the trees,But rather the clattering antlersOf bucks in rut, jousting within the circleThe doe staked out, nervouslyAlong its rim—as thoughTheir business, too, were circumference,And the moon's above them, [End Page 108] Rounding into the full, the starsIn their great wheeling chambers . . .
All of that darkness brought to bearUpon the charmed spaceBelow my window where antlersFormed the thorn of branchesAt the heart of the contested world.It reminded me of tumblers lined upIn a lock, the ring of stonesAt Stonehenge during the equinox.You see, we'd just moved hereFrom the city and regained the night sky,And I woke to deer beside my wife.
Out of a dream of helping my wifeGain her footing on a slab of sloping granite,I wake to find Skip James's spectral plaintPlaying inside my head—If I ever get off this killing floor—The light of late autumn filling the room,Faint again this morning, and cold.Can't find no heaven, he keens, and as if on cueA few drops of rain streak the windowAnd fall from the branches outside.Times are harder than ever been before.
In the dream I'd been fitting her shoeBack onto a leg that ended at the ankle,The trim bones rounded like the haft of an axe.Now I fit the covers back flat againOn the bed we slept in for fewer yearsThan I ever could have guessed.This month the second birthday since her death [End Page 109] Will come and go, the days grow shorterAnd dark. Can't find no heaven,I don't care where they go. That lost,Dreamy falsetto keening my morning song.
"The natural object," said Pound, "is always the adequate symbol."For example: that whiff of rotten eggs I caughtThe day after Easter, returning from my walk,The pleached frazzled asphalt still splotchy with rain,The first spikes of knotweed by the roadside, their rhubarb-Reddish stalks in leaf that will overspreadThe guardrail, the river still blue through the trees.
"So many things," the sage claimed, "to wound this heart,There's not a single week that one would willingly repeat." [End Page 110] But I'd gladly have the week I drove leafing back roadsTo buy herbs for her garden— little slips of hyssopAnd lavender, fennel in feathery sprays—The one in which we discovered bloodrootIn the laps of the trees, their wet petals pressing apart.
Robert Gibb's books include The Origins of Evening (Norton), which was a National Poetry Series winner. Among his other awards are two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) fellowships and a Pushcart Prize. His two new books of poetry are Sheet Music (Autumn House P) and The Empty Loom (Arkansas P).