PoemoftheWeek.org
HomeAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonateArchive
Bruce Beasley

11-22-08

Autumn 

It’s like waking up with someone else’s

loneliness;

 

the hills shoring themselves against the dusk,

 

a thin ice hinging on the lake’s edge.

 

Shades

            -for David

 

1.

 

I can almost remember

the months we lay

huddled up together in the womb,

 

and the hospital

on Hemlock Street,

where we incubated,

four pounds each;

 

I can still almost feel

our father’s

strength, as he lifted us,

one in each hand,

 

and call back the smell

of bleached sheets

on the wind through our window,

 

and the crabapples

crushed on our street…

 

I can see us

on Easter, acting

grown-up, chrysanthemums

pinned to our lapels, Vitalis

 

slicked on our hair,

as we crooned with the hymn

Were you there

When they nailed Him to the cross…

 

And I can still see the Siamese twins

in the Guinness Book of World Records,

merged at the waist, each

 

waving:

we’d lie on the floor, hip to hip,

and look at the picture ands giggle.

 

2.

 

We walked to school each morning,

identically dressed, living

the same life,

the temporary

gravity of childhood holding us;

 

each day in school the earth

rolled, lopsided

and cold, on its globe, and each

 

summer our grandfather cut

white slabs of apple from his tree, or poured

gold from a knotted sock

buried in his drawer;

 

each morning our mother gathered

white slugs from her garden,

drowned

in half-buried cups of beer,

 

and each night we sat

on the corner, barefoot

and bug-bitten, talking,

 

waiting for the streetlight to come on.

 

3.

 

I dreamed our bedroom window

cracked, letting the air

leak out, and you

 

were gone; your bed

perfectly made, the closet

vacant…

 

I woke up and walked through the room

as if it were empty.

And sat at our old desk, lay

my head on the cold glass,

 

my hand on the wood,

saw the window

wrapped in dark curtains

 

and felt the air

filling the room again,

so damp this time, so cold.

 

4.

 

In the zodiac, the Twins

move together through the heavens,

immutably

 

joined…

 

A hundred miles away from me,

your daughter

is learning the thrill

of denial,

 

tottering away from you

crying

no no no no…

 

She’ll never be part

of another

child, grafted

with a sister, safe like that,

 

or halved;

we carried on conversations

in our sleep, I’m told,

nonsense to nonsense

 

in our cribs,

holding

ourselves together, figuring

childhood out.

 

5.

 

The winter of 1958

vanishes again,

your face

through the bars of the twin

 

crib vanishes again;

the photograph

of the two of us on horseback

in cowboy boots and chaps

 

fades

back into white again…

 

I can hardly

see us now, adult,

deliberately

whole,

 

with our painted mailboxes,

our perfect lawns

wrapped around the dead

ends of the street…

 

There’s always an absence,

a secret

sadness we carry with us,

kept in two

 

bodies, like shades

of one shadow, stricken

out of the light.

 

Benediction

-In olden times, when wishing still helped…

         -Grimms Fairly Tales

 

Let the dead stars

fume and burn,

wherever they are.

Let the raw

color of carnations

survive,

white against red.

Let the funeral home

by the Farmer’s Market

go on with its planting

and burying,

its hanging flowers

shrouding the wooden porch.

Let the impatiens and morning glories

always surround the hearses.

Let the children go on wishing

on the stars’

borrowed light, even when

it won’t help, when the moon

is spare, three-quarters black,

lodged

at the night’s rim

like a mote in the eye.

Even when the sky

is dull with stars, when they’ve all

sputtered out, one by one,

and kept

burning…

Let us still

see them.  Let us

believe there is someone

when we mourn or pray

who will listen,

who will bend down.

 

          -from Spirituals