poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week
Wreckage was still smoldering on the airport road
when they delivered the soldier- beyond recognition,
seeing god's hands in the medevac's spun rotors-
to the station's gravel landing pad. By the time you arrived
there were already hands fluttering white flags of gauze
against the ruptured scaffolding of ribs, the glistening skull, and no skin
left untended, so you were the one to sink the rubber catheter tube.
When you tell me this over the phone hours later I can hear rotors
scalping the tarmac-gray sky, the burdenless lift of your voice.
And I love you more for holding the last good flesh
of that soldier's cock in your hands, for startling his warm blood
back to life. Listen. I know the way the struck chord begins
to shudder, fierce heat rising into the skin of my own
sensate palms. That moment just before we think
the end will never come and then
the moment when it does.
Staking fencing along the border of the spring
garden I want suddenly to say something about
this word that means sound and soundlessness
at once. The deafening metal of my hammer strikes
wood, a tuning fork tuning my ears to a register
I'm too deaf to understand. Across the yard
each petal dithers from the far pear one white
cheek at a time like one blade of snow into
the next until the yard looks like the sound
of a television screen tuned last night to late-
night static. White as a page or a field where
I often go to find the promise of evidence of you
or your unit's safe return. But instead of foot-
prints in the frosted static there's only late-
turned-early news and the newest image of a war
that can't be finished or won. And because last
night I turned away from the television's promise
of you I'm still away. I've staked myself
deep to the unrung ground, hammer humming
in my hand, the screen's aborted stop-time still
turning over in my head: a white twist of rag
pinned in the bloody center of a civilian's chest,
a sign we know just enough to know it means
surrender, there in the place a falling petal's heart would be.
BIO: Elyse Fenton is the author of Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010), selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize. Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Literary Journal, her poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in such journals as Bat City Review, The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times. In 2010, she received the University of Wales Dylan Thomas Prize for Clamor.
Born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, Elyse Fenton received her B.A. from Reed College and her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. She has worked in the woods, on farms, and in schools in New England, the Pacific Northwest, Mongolia, and Texas. Check out her website at www.ElyseFenton.com.