Ann Knox




FOSSIL

 

The domed biscuit incised with a star sits

on my window sill. I found it behind dunes

within sound of breakers rolling in from the Arabian Sea.

 

We'd meet by an abandoned radio tower where the track

ran out, our two cars a shock of hard-edged

color in the dun desert landscape. I'd wait

 

in the shade of a sandstone outcrop by a porcupine's sett

the air tainted with the animal's rank smell. One day,

my belly taut, I listened for the hum of his Rover;

 

blown sand pricked my skin, my fingers

sifting the loose talus, curved around

this stone echnoid and for a moment

 

delight erased the torque of waiting as I traced

the starfish etched on the weathered surface.

But the sun dimmed, the tower's shadow

 

grew and he never came. To counter pain and shame,

I held the fossil tight, a small recompense

for a loss I thought would last forever.

 

Now, decades later, the ache is forgotten but the fossil's

weight still satisfies and the history it carries

is one I gave it. When I'm gone

 

the story will be lost, but perhaps a grandchild

will heft the stone's compact roundness and be pleased

and treasure it for her own reasons.

 

 

FUGUE

 

Like a horizon of far mountains,

a theme flows comely but irregular, one

range overlapping the next, each rank

fainter, bluing to a distant edge.

 

Another strand draws out, thin

as a Dutch landscape seen across

water, but for three windmills, the town

barely swells the brown ink line.

 

Then a motif, akin but not quite congruent,

braids like a river crossing and re-

crossing a wide valley, the current

combing eel-grass in slow green waves.

 

It's not a round exactly, nothing as precise

or orderly, but dim and barely heard,

an echo plaits with strands of wind-hush

bird song, and the heart beat's thrum.

 

 

LITTLE ARCHITECTURE

 

            Consider also the little architecture of the mouse's skull.

                                                                         Aaron Anstett

 

An ant enters the south portal,

steps into solemn cool where

the nave vaults to a coffered ceiling

 

and light slants through the socket

of a missing rose window.

Under the chancel's half-dome

the ant rears, feelers out

 

but probably only I imagine

this place is holy. The ant

turns, darts past the sinus,

under the fornix and out

 

to sun and live arched grasses.

 

 

IN LATE MARCH

 

We walked along the towpath arguing,

            the woods bare, almost transparent,

                        and across the river a diesel throbbed

 

pulling a half mile of gondolas; the roar filled

the valley  erased sound and held until the last car

 drew a thinning trail round the bend

 

and we were left empty. Then close by,

            a sparrow's cheep, peeper-calls from the berm.

                        We had nothing to say, but we needed

 

to talk, wasn't that why we'd come? If we'd waited

            if we'd leaned into stillness and listened, not

                        to words but to what existed between us,

 

formless, edgeless as air, if we'd been alert to twigs

            fattening on the cottonwoods, our feet crackling

                        the towpath gravel, we might have noticed our hands

                                     almost touched and today we'd be elsewhere.

 
RITUALS

 

An Inuit hunter bows to the harpooned seal

and offers it water from a bone spoon.

 

Over greensward and rows of stone markers,

trumpet notes rise, a woman accepts a folded flag.


A man hands his young son the rifle as a buck

breaks from the underbrush, later in the cabin

he pours the boy his first shot of Jack Daniels.


A woman picks the dried cord from her daughter's

navel, ties a tuft of the newborn's hair with red

thread and sews them in a pouch for the child to wear.

 

I spill salt and toss a pinch over my shoulder then pause

to note the rough grains, sun and geraniums in the window. oldH

 

I don't bow exactly, but that small act

quickens the moment as if I'd touched a live thing.




Ann Knox's two new chapbooks, Reading the Tao at Eighty and The Dark Edge, were recently published by Finishing Line Press and Pudding House Press, respectively. She also has two full-length collections: Stonecrop, winner of Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize and Staying Is Nowhere, winner of the SCOP/Writer's Center Prize.  Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, among them Poetry, Blue Line, The Green Mountains Review, Atlanta Review, and Alaska Quarterly.  A collection of short stories, Late Summer Break, was published by Papier Mache Press.  She received an MFA from Goddard-Warren Wilson and has taught workshops and writing seminars in many venues.  For eighteen years she served as editor of the Antietam Review.








                                    

 

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