- Milkweed, and: Flood, and: If We Are to Go Forward, and: River Path
The summer morning, the exploding front, the rain a wall falling—
glass, the skylight aches; bitter thunder grinds; and the thin leaves, the tender skin of the clearing,
shake in seizure—
One stalk of milkweed jerks left and right, is twisted down, blown upright, bitten, blind thing, on and on, by the swarm of bullets: then in the lull he sways.
In his pods, molecule by molecule, smoke- colored silk thickens,
the only food of the monarchs, wandering rags. [End Page 119]
Roofs yawn open to the sky, which is smooth, silky, hot and a weak blue again.
The crown of the oak bows into the water.
Pouring from a hole in the center of the sky, light flattens onto motionless water. The light presses rungs of cloud into the mirror.
My boat drifts over a house.
The sky darkens, the flood darkens.
Ten yards off a little splash— the moon floats from the water, round, dripping.
Thick glow fills the boat to its gunwales,
and the boat sinks slowly
to the house— [End Page 120]
- If We Are to Go Forward
Don’t let your shoulders wilt as you sit at the table sinking your head into the flowers you snipped and fed.
Don’t cry because you wound up in this room as this fragile little person. Even you saw, or heard, or sensed moments of choice walking past.
Don’t cry, not even silently. If the wetness should rot the lilies’ smooth faces this soon, if they should shut to bloom inward again, where would you turn?
Or if like a herd they should sense your breath among them, if they should begin to quiver and circle, and glow, faint at first then unbearable, twenty wan suns flaring
Absurdly in the gloom above you, all around you, no matter where you turn in the frigid wood, your slender heart thrashing, your eyes dead in the glare, then who, then what have you become? [End Page 121]
- River Path
I slow, I stop: they surround me.
Lights rising together from this field in dark Connecticut,
this roughly mown this humid field
at dusk, creeping out from under the fat, chopped stalks strewn in wakes to dry and not drying, as a pall of rose, threads of smoke fade through the sky, the long liquid
day is collapsing
everywhere, and everywhere now, the fireflies in their plated suits
in silence, in midair
gather the force of their small lives and burst into pale flame for one half-second, the animal is consumed, dissolved,
then, near, a carapace glows— [End Page 122]
Night wind fingers the fringe of maples and black gums,
pulls each leaf back, the dark silver.
I catch my breath and I am invisible; my bare head is an eye. On and off, this sparkling matrix of pinpricks, instant death and instant life, fills the air entirely, from the damp grasses up through the canopy, further—
and my heart is not beating, and I know they are each one identical, each one screaming the same need in the same way with one intent, screaming soundlessly for each other—
How patiently they flicker off and on, silent, silent, composing around me the saddest brain in the world, the stupidest, the thinnest.
it grinds west, it chases the twilight. [End Page 123]
Noah Warren was born in Nova Scotia, was educated in New England and now lives in New Orleans. His book The Destroyer in the Glass was chosen by Carl Phillips for the 2015 Yale Series of Younger Poets. He begins a Wallace Stegner Fellowship this fall. His poems have appeared in AGNI, Poetry, the Southern Review and the Yale Review.