The girl throws fruit at the squirrels. They dodge
and do not approach. The picnic was fine,
there was tea and sweet milk. Watermelon and salt,
that's how the men like it. Children put olives
on their fingers and dropped them on the ground.
This is the path. They must be waiting for us
over that hill. Night reels itself in.
First color drains from the trees, then stars
are drawn across the grass and away.
It is summer, and children can play outside
until dawn. They cannot.
Night birds awaken and stitch the leaves shut
with their cries. Trees breathe at the periphery.
Sing night songs, and the dolls go to sleep.
The ceramic teapot fell off a rock and burst
into stars. See, there is light now. We tell all the stories
we know. Gather the pieces,
you must gather the pieces. All will be well.
We are pirates and tie the dolls up. Muted leaves
billow like sails. Bees halo around the young boy's head.
I did love you so, the girls says, and turns
into a small crop of fern. This time,
the pineapple is sweet. The children divide it,
breaking off chunks with their hands. Asleep,
the fox curls into its ribs. This is not grief.
There is no evidence that animals can feel.
The pineapple is sweet, why will you not eat it?
The day is not so far yet away.
JUST PAST THIS ROAD
LIVES A FIGURE IMPRISONED
IN A TOWER
Each moment starts again, each blade of grass
Stands apart from the rest.
From close enough, it's hard to believe.
The blade is not a continent. On the other side,
Small people build fires,
Press together in the cold. There are ways
To harbor warmth that almost make them
Sing. Perhaps language is simple,
And there are no words to speak.
About distance. People rarely believe
It exists. Do you wake at night
Shuddering? Do you want
To shudder but sit very still instead?
At the window, night places cold palms
Over all the eyes of flowers
There is nothing wrong
With this stillness, nothing broken
In what it uncovers and covers again.
This is breath: faces nearly forgotten:
Is air entering the body until even its bones
Barely exist. First the mouth
Disappears, then the throat
And warm lungs. What we do have: a clock
We can stop at times, not at will.
Your room is a ball I can break apart
If you permit. A smaller hollow nests inside,
And inside the throat,
Another hollow still. This road
Measures my steps. From far away,
Leaves framing your window
Could be anything at all. Six thousand words,
Their order obscured. How many times
People set out to reach you.
Against this cold air, I can see your breath.
I cannot imagine your ribs.
These poems, as well as three additional poems by Malinda Markham, will appear in Conjunctions:33, Crossing Over, to be published Fall of 1999.