Conjunctions:36 Dark Laughter

Three Poems
The following appears with two other Meek poems in Conjunctions:36.
 
Twelve Days
 
—for Ann Lauterbach

Night fades angels on Cemetery Hill and the town
seasonally wakes; even trailers

suddenly articulate: elaborate alphabets of colored
glass-studded wire. Religions of stone

reduced to wattage, shorthand—replicated stars, brightly
diminished kinds. Why inject

such history into light? Each night the pale
procession of angels illegible in ascent, each morning

the town’s confrontation with vanishing. Preservation
destroys it. Chemical rinse on the rock paintings

ate from each zebra the delicate
spindle of legs. The sustained

can’t hold us. The winter the snow wouldn’t
stop falling the world was reduced

to repetition until spring thaw muted it to ice cold
warming lakes. Wild sheep

drank there. So how erase
the narrative of regret? All this marble

determination to house
drawers of ash, a room encrypted with light.

Luminarias all up the drives, coffined electric candles
blessing the way out; why does consolation

come as duplication, the same instinct
lined up the hill as monuments

to recognition and grief? Only the names break

the pattern—age uncarves
each letter, each

visible absence. History survives
only so long; winged angels of chalk

pour finally toward intent. All this
ritual alteration of landmarks, poinsettias

racked on each grave, and none the answer to how
ward off the night. Vines compete

for the marrow of trees winter-thin to make room
for the lesser light. Climbing the hill to the founders’ crypt, tiers

of the exemplary sound the world to progress
through a regimen of flowers, of marking

stages of grief as if the night weren’t posed
as a range of questions, some

so dark there’s no priority to the prior, nothing
to remember but the present as a gift of cool

vague absence, a thin place, a moment’s
narrow cave between pulse beats of blinking

color downtown, a code flashing to the nightsky
again and again a single letter, an afterimage

invisible by dawn. 

Sandra Meek is the editor of Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark 2007) and the author of five books of poems: An Ecology of Elsewhere (Persea 2016); Road Scatter (Persea 2012); Biogeography, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo 2008); Burn (2005); and Nomadic Foundations, winner of the Peace Corps Writers Award in Poetry (2002). The recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and the 2015 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, she has twice been awarded Georgia Author of the Year. Meek is a founding editor of Ninebark Press, director of the Georgia Poetry Circuit, poetry editor of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum, and Dana Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College.