In Utero

Laura Post

In Utero

My wife has grown three sons
in her womb, nestled and nursed
these little raiders in her ark

of fluid and flesh. Another, a girl,
she anchored to her bosom
from nine days to now. Adopted

this one, blessed and baptized
her in oceans of smells
and coos, cradled her in arms

and eyes—such complex vessels
of love. For all my annual tilling,
she’s a better gardener than I,

consummate cultivator of each
thing great and small. Even
the benign fibroid mass

found growing in utero, her body
cannot but favor and feed—
such fertile ground, such springs,

such rivers and seas of life.

The Heart of the Matter

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The Heart of the Matter

He couldn’t look up; he saw only the priest’s skirt
like the skirt of the mediaeval warhorse bearing down
upon him: the flapping of feet: the charge of God.

—Graham Greene

For weeks I deserted my unfinished summer reading
and the main character, Scobie—left him
Tortured and damned by infidelity and lies,
his unworthy consumption of holy wafer and wine.

And for good reason—fall barreled down the road
at me. Each morning I delivered children to school,
Carted garbage to the curb on designated days,
dieted to shed pounds like ballast at middle age,

Fed the dog who waited with irrepressible grace
like a rebuke by the back door—“surely
Today he will pick up the ball and play.” And the suspended
business with Scobie lingered too

Like nameless guilt, till the vagaries and pressures
of some day woke me at three in the morning.
Finally—reading the last thirty pages of The Heart
of the Matter—I pushed money, work, and marriage out

Of mind: Scobie kissed his mistress one last time, tried to feel
the old affectionate pity for his wife,
Recorded in his diary calculated lies about chest pain,
and swallowed twelve Evipan with a glass of gin.

The denouement was brief and decisive for Scobie
and me: the letting go, the calling out
To God, the hope for love, the descent into darkness
and sleep—sleep—the blessed sacrament of sleep.

My Former Student Dies in a Mudslide

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My Former Student Dies in a Mudslide
La Conchita, CA, 2005

I.

In California, rain and fire
undo the living. In separate seasons,
infernal winds whip truant sparks
into crematory fires
that jump

from ridge to ridge, and nonchalant rains
loosen the hills and bluffs till the land
falls free of its bones.

II.

A friend called to say sodden cliffs
collapsed—sweeping Heather away while she napped
on a couch at home, her neighborhood
in the toe of the slide, purged
by the unbearable
speed of mass.

Another resident,
a man, drove to the store for milk
and returned to find his whole family
gone—all the furniture, fixtures, and foundation
of his life no longer defying
the altered angle
of repose.

III.

I have to move so many layers of debris to find her—
a dozen hard years of marriage, two babies,
dissertation, new jobs, bottles and bottles
and bottles of wine, diapers and wipes,
a dead dog and son, loud voices
in the tunnel of the night,
my own bad heart—
not sure even now
I can recover
her face.

IV.

In this, I conduct my search
and rescue, shining the halogen light
of words into the long-gone night when I called
Heather and her feckless friend down after
class for their animated
and ceaseless chat—
such youthful energy and gall.

One more plank moved from the rubble of my life,
and I see her incredible outrage,
the flushed and freckled face,
the brown curls wound tight
as springs, the shock,

the injustice
of it all.

The Strength in You

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The Strength in You

For the lover is forever
trying to strip bare
his beloved.
—Carson McCullers

I found a strand
of your blonde hair
in our bed today,

eased it over my hands
to feel its length,

raised it to my face
to savor the scent
that might remain
on a thing so small,

and then,
as I am prone to do,

gripped both ends
with determined strength
and pulled to break
the thing in two—

but lost my grip
and could not break
the smallest part

of you.