- Original Sinning, and: Missing You Again, and: Back Story
Remember earlier that same day? The smell of green, the bright young sun, God’s huge hands pressed on the sky’s clear glass, his fatherly forehead (unfurrowed as yet) leaning down?
Remember how the whole sky filled with his mouth—agape? How his flattened palms and porous face appeared to crack (or would have, had the two been looking up): life-line splintered, love-line crazed, eyes glazed? That classic Primal Scene.
It all came apart so swiftly after that: sweat and labor, sons, a dark fertility of soil, veins seething with ores, with leaves and leavings, with freezings and thaws, till even Adam could till without toil, having mastered the art of the forge. Leisure, now, and all the time in the world for kissing, for telling. [End Page 129]
Ages pass in these pursuits, while God catches his breath. At which point, all of us, you and me, catch hell. Static bristles; ozone burns in our lungs; lightning slices our eyes like the slick skin of an apple. Rain. More rain.
At long last: California. I told you he’d leave you the garden, the voice in the apple tree sneers. Big deal. Here’s my offer:How much space do you people figureyou’ll need in the long run?Oh yeah, and about that ozone: still want to live forever?
Plus ça change . . . , sighs God in a Francophile mood, leaning only a fraction of his old weight on the antique glass. [End Page 130]
Missing You Again
Always the departed—their sand-dollar eyelids, their folded hands—lie still and let us fill one last time with their faces, a shade removed from ours. Their wishes have been seen to and the washing of their flesh. There is music or not—just as they asked. We’ve come to touch them goodbye with our eyes, now they’ve moved beyond our voices. Neither family nor the bereaved, we emerge together, a group of fellow-workers, to stand, blinking, just outside the double doors, astonished at how everything is suddenly so vertical, so deeply three-dimensional, the cars in the lot dazzling, the lot itself expanding with our exhalations. We stand waiting for our eyes to adjust, while parking spaces empty and are filled in a seemly manner under a weak, workday sun, and the boulevard streams with a suddenness of souls— some living, some long departed some so newly gone they shine in our pupils, grow palpable in the cups of our palms— that are filling now with keys, as we open our car doors and gaze a moment more across our gently mounded roofs: all the way to the horizon there are people missing. [End Page 131]
after a yard-sale photograph
On the far bank, far downstream, she stands effaced in failing light,
her dark hair blurred against the shore’s black verticals,
her crimson skirt a tucked bulk, her white limbs bared,
her feet and ankles lost in the long, silver water.
Does there have to be a story here, Heart?
How to prevent the alchemy: cloth to blood, pine trunks to a sinister witness,
the river’s glint to the lengthening slip of a knife? Must her flesh
bruise with the pressure of prints on the gloss finish? And must it be
again my face shining back from the scene of her violation? [End Page 132]
Marjorie Stelmach is the author of three volumes of poetry, most recently Bent upon Light (U of Tampa P). She served, until her recent retirement, as the director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis.