Issue 35, Final Fringe

Three poems from “An Invitation to Rache”

by Nathaniel Perry Issue 28 09.12.2011

In the Daylight of a Second Day

Have you ever gripped the low branch of a tree
so hard you felt like you were hanging more
than standing on the ground, and when you pulled
away your hands the lacy indentations
of the bark were still there in your palms and hanging
now from you? I imagine you looking over
those trace-lines for some wild kind of clue,
not a map, but a tiny language written in
your hands flecked with dirt and bits of wood.
I can see you turning to walk a little further
on into a ring of trees around
a lake until you can just barely make
the water with your eyes—the coin-flash of light
against the lake, the water naked in
the daylight of the day. I hope for you now
that you return to see the water naked
in the daylight of a second day, to know
and recognize that all repetition
is a kind of worship, memory a kind
of repetition we are destined to
repeat but not relive, determined to
report but not relieve. I see you on
that second day angling your hand
above your eyebrows, alternately shading
out the light and letting it into your eyes
just enough so when you close them you
can barely stand, can see in the darkness left
to you there the tracing of the light inside
and inside your eyes—which will stay with you, hanging
tightly for a long while, not wanting to
disappear like water into the air
eventually. And you should know it won’t,
but will instead, like language, like loves, recede.

In That Room Alone Where I Have Been Alone

Have you ever opened the door into a room
and turned the handle with the kind of force
that expects resistance, but the door was light
and the weight you wanted wasn’t there? I have.
It changes your view of the room a little. Instead
of squinting out the window with a look
of confidence on your face—confident
that the sunlight will be just as beautiful
as it was across the snow outside, that trees
will scrawl their branches far into the distance
of the maple woods, a map no one could follow—
instead you look to the floor instinctively,
perhaps to see what’s robbed you of the load
you meant to carry or the burden that’s been
unburdened, and the flashing of the windows
does not even register as light but as
a code you cannot crack or really even
deal with in usual ways, and the people
in the room, if there are people, all look up
to see what you will do with them and with
the loads they carry on their faces. And where
will you go, Rache? Where, then, will you go?
What you must not do is take the windows as
your only guide and try to see if you
can see the lake you know is frozen now
outside. The winter sun slow-streaked along
the ice will crush you, and you will be bewildered
there in that room alone where I have been
alone. And as you stand there naked in light,
do not look down again at your hands; the weight
that will appear there will be heavy, but so slow.

At the Corner of the Hogwire Fence

Have you decided which direction you
might go? And I don’t mean west or north across
the field, though if you choose let me know. No,
what I mean is which direction around
the leaning post you’ll circle, a timber post
set at the corner of the hogwire fence
by the little path you’ve used to come into
the field. I know you’re in the field, I can tell
by the way you shade your eyes a little longer
as you look out across it, the way your flag,
the one we all furl up inside, is flying.
But you won’t yet make for the woods across the field
because you want to know whose fence this is,
and why the wire’s so rusted and its corner post
so meanly cared for. So you’ll circle around the timber
maybe to find an opening or maybe
to see if there were some way to prop it up
again, and you’ll have to choose. You’ll have to choose
to spiral towards the sun or after something
running from the sun, a shadow, a shade-tree,
the hollow of a snowdrift. And whichever way
you turn, or choose to turn, is no real matter
but to you and maybe to me, if I were there
to see it; and if the fenceline doesn’t hold,
but the sun holds, and the field agrees to hold
my footprints again, maybe I will be there
to watch you turn that corner in the sagging
wire—going nowhere, going everywhere.

Nathaniel Perry

Nathaniel Perry

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Nathaniel Perry is the author of Nine Acres (APR/Copper Canyon, 2011).  He lives with his family in rural southside Virginia and is the editor of the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.