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For weeks I didn't water Mother's fern
that paled beneath the eaves . Among the wilting
fronds two doves sat still in solid watch,
ceramic thieves, eyes round and dark and stern.
One day the male was gone, the mother crouched
beside two downy young, necks thin with spring.
I ached at their beginning, fed from her mouth,
and watched for flight. I didn't see their wings--
one day the nest was empty, just in time
to drench the fern and coax it back to life.
All this coming and going such a fragile rhythm:
water and sun, withhold and give, nurse and free .
My mother in a darkened room had packed for flight.
Her face like polished marble, set past sight.
South Texas Sestina
Sometimes there isn't a solid rhyme
or reason why a man says no--
or a woman--and when Clyde Miller saw the men in suits
carrying rolls of maps in their hands and trouble
he asked them what the hell
they wanted on his land, and one said, "Marry
cattle and oil and your son will marry
rich," and that's about all the rhyming,
greasy truth they had and he said, "Why the hell
would I do that?" He chewed his mouth, he knew
this type, this pitch. Man said, "We'll make no trouble
for you," but he had sweat rings on his suit.
Clyde sipped yellow coffee and thought it suitable
more to ask the cows if they could marry
the trappings and machinery, noise and trouble,
to the quiet of birth, the peaceful rhythm
of long Texas afternoons, shimmer of heat, no
sound but cropping grass and lazy flies, no hellish
rigs that suck the country's health.
If cows could voice a claim, could bring a suit
against the creaking monsters, skeletal and no
friend to life in natural terms, they'd marry
not oil to cattle, but reason to rhyme
and live the tested ways, not buy a heap of trouble.
Clyde Miller'd always thought the trouble
with stiff-collared men was they didn't get it: hell
or heaven is what you do today, not some rhyme
of frogs and princes better suited
for some pigtailed girl who dreams she'll marry
in glass slippers, wash sweet smells of work from her nose--
the dust that blows uncluttered through the sage (no
other smell like it), a man's sweat, the trouble
of young'uns tumbling in the door. Let her marry
the silent stretch of Texas nights, rout heaven from the hell
of god-fearing work. "Don't suit,"
he said, and turned away in his own drawling rhythm.
The screen door slapped hell no against those suits,
that trouble, and dust rose biting from back tires, married
dusk air, and dissolved in the rhythm of a cooper's hawk, circling high.
-from We Will Have Ghosts
BIO: Georganne Harmon published We Will Have Ghosts, a chapbook, in 2012. In Baltimore for a year's residence, she shares her observations on the city and its people on her website in Fell Street Footnotes. She has recently completed her first novel, The Architecture of Retreat, a story about Abbey Livingstone, a landscape architect whose interest in labyrinths and retreats mirrors her labyrinthine past and her challenge to emerge from its shadows.