Ruth speaks in old age
To watch him in the fields,
his tempered violence
against the grain, the long
silent sweep of the scythe,
the gathering of sheaves,
recalls a happiness
brief as kindled chaff.
Beneath the tilting sun,
the same strict sun of childhood,
bound by the rhythm of
his labor, he ignores
the frailness of his body,
the failing light, his shadow
rising slowly to meet him.
How long will the moon stall
over the edge of the fields?
The day-moon, a lone ghost
above the grain? The stalks
stir in a subtle wind
that starts along the length
of the descending blade—
and as the barley yields
to the wide arc of his
endeavoring, it whispers
in another tongue,
and of another time,
when, like the grain, he laid
me on the threshing floor.
The pendulum of her clock keeps perfect time.
Impatient, propped against the windowsill,
she waits for noon, for flights departing north
from the neighboring airport. As they climb,
their steel bellies drag broad shadows across
her lawn. She fidgets as the garden dims:
her roses and the untrimmed clematis,
the hanging feeder—her entire street
darkens beneath the turbines’ hiss.
and after, she often wonders where they go—
imagines conversations, attendants neat
and eager, rows of smiles as sharp as scythes—
but while their passing shadows briefly fill
her empty teacup to its brim—she knows.
Without the usual work of wands,
she dazzles solely with her hands.
The coin behind your ear is gone.
Her pocket watch has turned to stone.
She plucks the rose from her corsage,
your ring tucked in its petaled cage.
She knows your card. She levitates.
Her eyes flash like azure agates.
And though she makes a show of it—
the scripted struggle, the long wait—
no locks or chains are sound enough
to bind her to this stage. And though
you know the limits of the eye,
her sleight-of-hand, the hidden lie,
you choose to see as through a sieve.
You still applaud. You still believe.
Is there a canvas crueler than the body?
The ink is permanent. The skin is not.
I have no patience for the lover’s gaudy
heart—swollen, pierced—a hackneyed blot
beating against the odds. I’ve seen them all:
straddled by seraphim, or torn apart—
on women, men, the lesser parlor’s wall—
hallmarked MOM, or skewered by a dart
from Cupid’s quiver.
But enough of love,
I work in monochrome. I deal in skulls.
Behind each piece a brief, familiar story.
It ends in bones—the sort of plot that dulls
the point. My needle’s steadiest above
a stinging script that reads: