The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Gayle Reed Carroll
The Moon Speaks in Darkness
You rake into darkness, I
Expose in yellow light. Gently stir the bath, see the man appear.
Slip into stop bath. Rinse. Clip to the line.
Show his face, square on the page: focus—
Not the hospital face, metal bed, scrambled sheets, thrashing kick.
Not the man damp and fuming, roar like thunder, not
his fight to rise.
Dim inside the developing dark, a father—
ease his image into the corrugated roll to dry. Save
how he works his darkroom magic show, how magic works
into a daughter's nerve.
Photographs could save the brief biographies—
Not the man strapped, strap out of reach. Who comes to feed,
to stroke his hair, his arm, his fire? Even the papery skin,
taut on cropped bone.
Story soaked and rising fast—
One sheet a chapter, a stack adds up the life,
one savage tone at a time.
No solution slows what's developing fast—
not the nurse, chair on wheels he steers with swollen feet,
hand over hand clutching the rail. The half smile, the muscle.
Over and over it works, as long as paper lasts—
Done, you think. Crop or enlarge. Lift him now, lift
from below the water’s worried surface. Lift,clip to the line.
Love is a Sinewy Acrobat
His glitz shines in transient light: in a hospital lost, needles and funk,
not one nurse knows how to tie the cord on his heart. They shuff
statement to question, each hour I dust my palms / cinch my belt.
The heart, once so beset, spills onto the arm I stroke: diminished, limp.
I want to forgive someone. A show of nerve, his skin his shifting stature
his few rags fade in the closet: sartorial statement, slug.
No wonder patients slither in vague light: Who am I? he thrashes,
fogey : fool : coot : has-been : shadow : or is it
shot star? dogged rogue? taste of phlegm? or else
a shorted circuit, a word game, a woofer, a nothing
this falsehood this farce this forgetting this failing this fog.
Somewhere a trio of spotlights shouts his name;
somewhere a tightrope screams, not yet not yet not yet
—after D.A. Powell
To My First Grade Teacher, Miss Smitha
I was lost in a breathtaking curl—
as it rose from my desk like a worm,
as I rocked
the yellow pencil's eraser band,
crimped and empty,
sharp metal glide
into a yield of grain and shellac.
The thrill, the standing curl—
pine scent, amber sheen,
that I stopped with a single cut.
I'm sorry I damaged my desk,
sorry I lied.
I did it
because I could.
And because I couldn't stop.
I don't know what scared me more:
what I couldn't take back,
or how the carving aroused me.
A Marked World Deeply
When were the carefree days, walking the slithering lips of tide,
searching for shells? Clam, conch, blue-black mussel,
hinged valves intact. Oysters, blanched
by furious waves.
Salt of the earth, did I even imagine creatures in those shells, facing
octopus, sea star, those clever suction cups
attaching to bivalves, to slowly, willfully, pry the halves apart—
Eat or be eaten, whispers a world
making its tedious way to extinction.
Achieve, invent, compete! argue the heroes of progress. Stars
patiently cheering the faint sky,
night driving a path binding the globe.
Somewhere in ruin, shards of Treblinka, Buchenwald, Auschwitz,
where gathered once, the flawed, the broken, the hated,
trusting, or not, God in the Torah.
And angels who helped, or meant to help
the marked, seeking escape.
Time weaving its silk gloom beyond the threads of light.
Any soldier might stop a woman on the night street,
a pall of war-crumbled houses,
coo to the infant asleep on her wool shoulder, offer a crust of bread
from a sack packed by his wife. Wave his cool goodbye.
As the two pass into darkness, shoot
mother and child in the cupped bone of each skull.
Smile to a friend.
One woman living
answers a cry in fierce wind, attunes her mind to rescue
twenty-five hundred children from gas or flame, firearm or poison.
Embracing each child, she deeply inhales, exhausts.
Blankets each unnerved cry
in basket, ambulance, tram, or package.
After, searches for living parents, delivers their children home.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication