The First Line Of This Poem Is From An Essay By Marvin Bell
We wake up every day incomplete,
leaving our better selves behind.
You, across the slats as if we
were bundling, only breaking
into snowbanks for a little sleep,
a small dying. Dream-ravished,
dry in the throat as if hoarse
from desire, we feel the light
just outside us. Inside,
it is murky, still. We move
wounded, unwinding our hurts
into the tangled sheets, groping
for our breath under the pillow.
The bed is wracked by storms
we cannot trace. It is the crust
that wakes, streaks the drawn air,
burnt edges flaking, finding
the cold floor. But where
is the rest? These are remains,
the particles, last night’s skin
shedding under the tap. You
search high, I look low, cut off
at the numb ends of my grasp,
sniffing, clearing my voice for the day
to come, vacating what I knew
when I was lost to this room,
taking inventory of the spare parts.
The landscape of my memory has been torn apart,
uprooted. The winds came through our farm,
our farm alone, the month my mother was going
to move; it is a housecleaning, a transplant,
a warning to those who do not live with the land
but on it. I remember driving up to the house
and seeing dark spots in the fields, the cows
had got out while the hired man drank.
The cows were full of bloat, filled up
like pictures in a child’s book.
There was nothing to do but do something,
my father first, of course, and the rest of us,
each with a butcher’s knife plunged into
the cows’ bellies, and I pushed on a swollen side,
pushed into the cow and the stink came out,
the skin became a cow again and stood up, dumbly,
dazed and quite dumb about it all.
This has stayed in me, like bloat, all these years,
nobody to knife me with the needed act, nobody
to squash my sides in without having to stop
and think about it, which would be too late, letting
my tears fall out like a swallowed field.
All the trees gone and I still pruning them,
drawing strength in their shade.