There is a horse with a face made of flies.
There is wet shale, a porch, a storm.
You are checking your body for ticks.
The moonlight glazes your skin
as you turn in the mirror,
no red apertures where
your blood is missing.
The storm has knocked out the power
so there are only sirens and fallen trees,
their torn roots vertical,
as intricate as medical illustrations
of the nervous system.
There is a cinder racetrack.
There is a congress of silos.
You spent the day in the tall grasses
of your father’s death,
so far out that you came upon houses
that were only a chimney,
half a brick wall, a jam tree.
It was as if there was a rapture of houses:
in one of their missing kitchens
your father is making coffee.
You dress and open the windows
to smell the night
as shadows lash your face like branches.
The silence doubles.
There is a knife.
There is a nest of hair and blue wires.
A sequence of weeds
tell the story of your life—
you were born in pigweed,
nightshade taught you to slick back your hair
and volunteer corn hid you
while you fed the strays
your father had warned you to starve.
You knew joy is private
and that is why corn exists.
The electricity flickers like an eyelid
lost in dream. You tell yourself
if the power comes back
you will write down all that the world
has given and taken, sum
that bright zero.
There is a fragment of a tractor.
There is raze.
There is a footstep in the patch of shale
behind your house, then another.
You don’t wait, and begin to write,
but the math doesn’t come to nothing—
you have more than you lost.
In words you cannot see, you try
to tell how you made a life
on the margins of town
in between two drainage ditches.
The footsteps come closer, and now you hear them.
It could be a stray. It could be your father.
There is power, then not.
It could be a horse whose shock fence failed,
who is blinded by flies,
who could be an illustration for missing
as you write with your eyes closed
of roots and skin and joy you laced into cinder.
This is how you keep a house, a countryside.
This is how the light can spell the dark.
Andrew Grace’s third book Sancta was published by Ahsahta Press in early 2012. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Antioch Review, Bat City Review and Beloit Poetry Journal. He is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati.
This poem reminds me of my grandparents farm with the horse flies, corn stalks, shock fence…. except-there’s always an exception where truth is involved- there were no tics; there are now however. Favorite lines: “the math doesn’t come to nothing/ You have more than you lost…/….the roots and skin and joy you laced into cinder.” You nail the transience of life and the permanence of memory in your setting.
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