2010 Creekwalker Poetry Prize Finalist
Tom Moore holds a Ph.D. in Mythology and History of Religions. He is professor at Western Washington University. His poetry has appeared in Nimrod, Rhino, Midwest Poetry Review, College English and many other places.
He lives in Bellingham, WA.
He lives in Bellingham, WA.
Though you prune and prune for space, there's no room left
in your garden. The silky pea vines, over six feet high, watch
your earnestness as you pass by – it's all they can do not
to surrender to the sky, spinning in its blue hat above them.
Otherwise, the blossoms are doing just fine. The children
cull them, clipping marjoram, bean bud, Sweet William,
even as green hooks gather in the beans. You lean against
a fence and smell the hair your mother braided. Bobbing
in a sea of thorns, a dinghy then, hauling raspberries, black
berries, up from the spiny sea. No matter how much fruit
you picked by the path – spilling to the bay with mud feet,
cuts from the crab shells – Apollo always gathered more.
The bay was brown that summer. Stringy birds shrieked at
the one white sun as you stood with your eyes on the moon.
By the grave there is one chrysanthemum.
Since it bears no fragrance of its own you must
imagine a million petals, each one holding its
vegetable soul, each one falling the way it would drop as
if you knew it were there. Brushing the headstone, its
nails scrape the granite softly, slowly, away and
as a flower suspended in space, it is emptied of all
but the pink you imagine, each petal a thought, each
thought perched on a branch of the cherry. When
you step off the bus near Dogen's Temple you
can choose to enter the door where her eyes
look out at you or her eyes by themselves.
No cancer grows on the shade woman's skin. The crown
of her wide white hat flutters in the breeze and her eyes,
alert in the shadow of its brim, survey the sun-drenched
bathers on the beach. In truth, the sun is terror and
explosions. It is matter unmade in scalding light and skin
peeled back like paint. In the desert they have heard the
bombs go off and know that Jerusalem in ticking. In the
first ten seconds after the blast, there is just silence, as if
the day had been rushing itself toward that moment with
all its attendant joys and confusions and stories that people
make up about love, when all of a sudden a shop window's
glass becomes the child's face. This delay, I think, must
be akin to eternity – a loose blouse, drying in the wind.
There was a moment your face shone as brightly
as that of the goddess in Botticelli's Primavera (the
one on the right who looked sad), you kneeling,
with the strange sign pointing to your hair.
Much later I read of the palm that Odysseus
once used to flatter a princess – how near Delos
its twig had sprung up, sucking into its sheathe a
green immortality – and this was the memory
I held as I looked at your photo again, fading
after thirty years, though your eyes were still
filled with the hope that constrains our mortal
pretensions. Since then, with our lives going in
and out of style, I've thought of your scarf many
times: the one lent to you by the goddess to prevent
us from drowning. After that we ascended the stairs,
turning back as we got to each landing to examine
the waves – our old raft, drifting out of sight.
IN THE NIGHT PEWS
What can be known in the night pews?
I sit in my suit and listen to the preachers
talk of names borne of the summer's dark:
Richmond, Virginia, 1953. Fireflies, sticky
bugs, Venus moths, gather in the park. The
collar of the woman preaching chafes against
her neck, and her mate – a husky man who
might be more at ease in driving trucks – asks,
"Have you come aboard the ark?" Between the
first collection and a singing of The Lark, I sense
a need in me to belong somewhere no less strong
than to belong to a god. Nearby, a cute blond
whispers and fidgets with her dress. Below her
bare, tanned shoulders, a skin slice shimmers
like a sacred scarf. With the eyes of darkness
watching, I sneeze – she turns and giggles.
Wednesday night in canning season and look
who's here? Root cellars everywhere fill up
with the toil of man – damson plums, peaches,
pears – the saved nod their heads toward earth.
© Copyright Tom Moore. All Rights Reserved.