Thursday, 29 January 2015

from Blackwater Quarter, selection 23

Facing South

A journeyman’s domain,

this broken realm of miles and sky,

island clouds, the storm’s remains, archipelago nimbus

adrift in the blue... the cold summer strengthens late,

mist departing, England’s chill offering

to a foreigner at forty: expatriate weather,

bristling stencil of twisted pines sentinel at the gate.

A thread of thunder frays,

rising through heat on a dusty road,

end of the road where the road advances.

A recollection of my country, when brothers

were strangers with a stranger’s cause—

the lake face of the diary stirs,

a memory through fluted shallows

of war, the tattered field of Stars and Bars

lost when Jackson fell: hot steel and heart,

Stonewall our glory

The night goes by, the day

a servant with a silver tray, this too goes by,

time remembered in the promises we made,

in letters and the flowers pressed in books,

origami tucks of time refined in razor folds,

beneath a faded colonnade

faint fragrance of still fainter lives,

chords of music in the empty room,

sudden voices gathering, then gone.

The magnolia’s acid scent is with us.

By torchlight the blossom showers,

stamen trembling in the dark,

ribbons pinned to tunics marching past.

In sixty-five, our Shenandoah cause wore out,

rising from the corpses

like the damped remainder of the spinet’s airs.

Pale suburban features, traffic washing by,

the bright badge fades in frozen ditches

and the woods are braided with our dead,

restless strangers to the Appomattox peace.

Folding time, they shelter in the hero’s likeness:

fugitive creatures in the shade of Lee.

Rebels fall, yet we who enter in the fire and live

are saved from nothing, with nothing to forgive.

To Richmond on the avenues,

on paths of burning stone, bring the Jubilee.

The ghost walking with you is your own.

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