That life could swell in them and shunt
in tumbled wombs to me, in whom
their features pool, their stillness here belies,
these dead of mine, on paper,
silver others, their static eyes agape.
I think apart their tacit mouths,
guessing around hidden teeth
to wit, or anger, or brittle vows
butting sons from seed to work,
then work to distant war.
I feel behind the fact of their dates,
and a grain or two of family tales,
that they knew Atlantic slap and southern whales
in the endless moons between
the dung of dales they'd plowed,
the ceded bed of their sires,
and the promise,
forced on their callouses
paid in failing pence: the difficult dream
of the chance at the world's extreme.
The descent of their alien hope,
as I tend their ghosts in my hands, arrives
at grandma's Christmas-angel gaze at nine,
her starting tenth: her father, five years dead,
and, coming yet, her mother - eaten of cheek,
to veiling bitten - gone with war-plague.
Lily's gaze is mirror to mine
as I prayed, at nine, in bedsheets wrung,
prodding her presbyterian god with pleas
that hung like him, expired in spoken air.
I pled that her stroke be survived
and that the winding of her seamstress years
to the hospital's blind unravel soon,
serenely mending loose, and she return
to bless me calm with ripeness.
But her god would keep her
half in hell, her closing tenth a rictus:
all her terrors opened, easeful drift
withheld, and the welcoming acre
locked to her, as long as hate.
A bare tree breaks a pane of light
across the lawn, as houses crouch
in the lee of interment, the viral ease
at work in their tenants
diffused in data and feed.
And now undreamed, the serried means,
the pounded layers of labour, thin
to a drowsy eye-slit in the quiet:
the climactic sum of so many crabbed
and welded spines, long lain in the patient clay.