Spring 2011 - THE POTOMAC

Three Poems
   Clyde Kessler


I'm ready for my fool harvest,
word vines stewed across a blank page,
an empty sprout or two slogged into soot
and spoken like dust in Fallujah,
like a mistranslation cropped among the dead.

Their word for a butterfly is not the word
for a ghost on a flower, for the missile
aimed inside a skull, for the dry river school
smashed into a lens that cannot focus. I'm
ready to say the berries are sour, the caterpillars
pupate as blind as thorns.

Yes, the berries will sour the harvest.
Moonlight will splurge across the bomb craters.
Yes, a tree forms itself from a shadow with a rifle,
then huddles under a bridge to hear this war
shake itself into a wheat field saluted with laughs.
I'm ready to glean no other abundance.


Soldiers tell the flowers to pray.
They watch one ant scrounging home
when any ant could ride a bubble to a star.

Some children have already learned
to despise the ant on an imaginary gun
where someone hides among the lilacs.

Rain is drying up on every poor man's roof
guarded in Kirkuk, but today a small cloud
has fingered some blood across a school yard.
It feels primitive as if waiting for coal and oil
to stretch into the deep roots of a billion ferns.

It feels maddening like wings attached to a key
that rips open a storm when it is unlocking
a bony little knob-fist around one of heaven's doors,
the knocking sound of the only rescue is grinding
its dust into paradise. The world is far away.



Like a word scissored loose from a jawbone in the leaves,
not real evidence sleeping in a shadow in a dead bramble thicket,
it is drab, and wordless, stilted into a cold blackbird's voice,
and far away from the missing woman who grumbled about rain
and droughts, who fled Managua twenty-five years ago, a kid
with a saint's laugh where death tried shooting through stained glass,
and wind chimes shook, and bread scrammed faster than a stray dog,
the living face all worn away in front of a camera, moping home
from Jacksonville, then Raleigh, everybody saying the wrong words.

She followed nothing except some work, and then looked lost
like a paragraph of headlines piled around a seed in a new garden,
a friend in trouble, her own life patched together from foreignness,
and too tired to backtrack from America, here you can stay and die.

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