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Issue 18

Poetry » Matt Babcock »


November Gale
(Skaneateles, New York, 1993)

                              I. 2:45 p.m.

Years ago: you said we should take a walk
out on the lake’s wind-roughened pier. Before
long, we braced ourselves there. Village boats knocked
at docks like fettered fowl. Behind inn’s door,
your weekend clothes trailed, loose as vixen spoor.

                              II. 3:07 p.m.

We stood in the teeth of the wind. No words
came. The chill buffeting stole all our speech,
replaced by distant palettes of leaves, birds
flung in broad arcs of sky like peaked foam, each
tossed in the wind’s fleet of gray, out of reach.

                              III. 3:08 p.m.

Then you turned. Your look proclaimed itself law:
to purge the sun’s payload of faulted ore
that dropped through clouds to earth where you stood, or
to stall the glacier’s six thousand-year thaw.

Death of a Fox

                              Harnham Road, Salisbury

To see a wild fox twice in your life
is a lament worthy of words. The summer
your dad died, crane flies blazed in the green air,

and I stepped from the trail
where a svelte male slunk across Glen Cove Road.
The sun tangled amber in his tangy coat

and paintbrush tail. I paused as if a queen
shed ermine robes and stepped nude
onto glossy mats of roadside myrtle.

Then I reversed tracks and walked back
with nothing to say. This morning, rain finer
than despair glosses the twisted remains

of that animal’s English cousin where I round
a corner, thinking of other things—the body
mangled by savage automobile hounds,

teeth jutting like combs of angry ivory,
the slashed pelt sprinkled with a fine meal
of lilac blossoms, the glistening secret

of the hip joint as raw as steak,
tossed like a rough jewel for display on the foil
of wet tarmac. If there are answers

between you and me, one must be that each
morning of rain raises a ruined cathedral
of spired hours over love’s fascinating wreckage

and the carcass of every day, by which
I can pass but from which I can’t turn away.

A Small Thing

Loud geese revive the dark
      in August on Old Salt Road.
Dawn pours in grooves of bark
      a molten motherlode.

Acorn epics freefall
      from forest mezzanine.
Caps and capsules rattle
      parables of green.

Scarlet sumac candlesticks
      erect the many-in-one.
Ferrous doe and fawns make
      anecdotes of calm.

Keep Out. Private. Posted.
      Wilderness reversed.
Road Not Plowed or Sanded
      December to April First .

Raccoon shrinks in furrow clods,
      shines juvenile eyes.
Crow and seagull arcs explode
      like rafters of the sky.

A small thing is the greater.
      The storm, the swallow’s swerve.
The swiftest particle of light,
      the sun’s resounding curve.