Sunday, May 31, 2015
Three Poems by Ralph Monday
After the fire was roaring in the fire pit
false red and orange suns, the
hemlocks frozen, green-crusted by
falling snow, I listened to the whisper
of snow sifting through trees, the
uneasiness of blackbirds picking at
brown stubble in the garden.
I knew that this Octavia, this winter
storm, was not the same as the wife
Mark Anthony divorced--but yet a
strange connection--in the way of
the world--for both came to icy
completion and passed away.
My hands warmed by the fire I am of
winter-mind: Old High German wintar, Goth
wintrus, Old Norse Vetrardag--more than
fifty winters I have loved.
This Octavia connects the past with now,
her billowing white skirts settling over the
land like a wedding dress, not a funeral
shroud, for this white time is not the moment of
hibernation--instead a steady tick of ice, sleet,
snow writing the book of winter, snow February
moon, there hidden deep behind thick
clouds. The modern masses huddle in consternation,
but I, I laugh with those in all the past who left
snowprints through forests, and would know
today the many arms of Octavia
saying these are my wintry breasts, my
snowmilk to nourish.
We walked on the frozen trail through
the woods, when I stopped and said
do you hear?
A far off roar, like a tornado coming
closer and closer. Then the treetops bent and
swayed as the mighty presence rushed past--
wind through the treetops like some
hurried god late for a
so strange, only a few trees but one in particular,
a great red oak bent back and forth like the
ticking hand of a clock as though singled
out. The force swept away as quickly as it
came. I knew that this was a living presence,
something on a mission that sought out that
tree like a Druid priest. We weren't supposed
to be there, to have witnessed this god of
air as it exhaled the potency of dim, far stars.
See see, I felt it say.
You are frail avatars waiting to be
spliced within the seeds of the
earth. Shadow smoke rising from a
wood stove, vapor, twice-made silhouettes beneath
heaven's windows--spirits moving on and away.
She wrote the psalm for the morning
on her palm where the forest dripped
sodden tones, tree roots buried tongues,
moss her sage gown that sweeps along
a wild ballroom floor the way she once
danced to manifest notes, childhood
memories of girlhood:
long skinny legs, an imagined ballerina's
pirouette on bone white river stones,
antlered arms reaching out to embrace
the lead in the Black Swan and
trees bow down, cry out for more after
the curtain call where the river sweeps
by singing the last morning hymn.
Ralph Monday is Associate Professor of English at Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, and published in over 50 journals. A chapbook, All American Girl and Other Poems, was published in July 2014. A book, Lost House and American Renditions, is scheduled for publication, May 2015 by Aldrich Press.