Three Poems

by Leonore Wilson


after Seamus Heaney

Slack of tongue I was
Nearly small as a sedge-warbler
When the young girl’s body
Was laid flat as a blade.

Her death still haunts this vestal daughter
Who recalls the river’s long curve,
The shrunken dusk of nightfall
When the farmer looking for lost calves

Discovered her out in the webbed marsh
Where toadstools and stumps
Repeated themselves that weary January
And she was my age, five

Exactly, and I didn’t know my destiny
Would be to save women, to speak
Up about the coldness of love
To clean out its rust.

I knew the hammered anvil’s ring,
The grunts, the slam and flick
Of a man who beat iron out,
My father, a brute with globe shoulders

Who could make my mother shudder.
I mapped his furrows exactly
Riding him piggyback,
Dipping, rising to the plough,

Closing one eye tight to follow the map,
The broad shadow round the farm,
The slug and thump for hours
Until our hung dry clothes were splattered.

The girl still rests in me like hot water,
A fifty year lid unfitted to a pot.
The memory blisters for I recall how they
Fished her from the mud and laid her in the pantry.

There was room for me at the schoolhouse then,
But my mother kept me in, coloring in the kitchen,
Afraid of the murderer, who he was;
A mystery opaque, where pitch knows this stigmata.

The Mennonite Squash

The woman at the museum
showed us the Mennonite squash,
she caressed it in her arms
and the big white baby curled
as if swaddled; we took her photo
before she cut it open and the yellow
of school buses, of yield signs,
of cat eyes burst forth, the sun
the mother of suns, the earth
seeds fell like new pilgrims
what was reaped in autumn
the fullness of autumn
and we fried the squash in rings
rings like Saturn;
the squash eaten with a touch
of catsup; it tasted of soft
things, of moisture and soil
of kindness, it tasted of
what the museum held
the history of travelers,
of wildflowers, honey,
of fennel, of barley and wheat,
ships and sailors, of the water
on the land and the land itself
of all that was good,
fruitful and multiplied.

Picking Olives

Like rain through his hands
he let the olives fall, the black pearls
with their nutlet seeds, he even sang to them
among the chickadees, and the pipe-thin
boughs let down their leaves
like skiffs touching scuds
and krill; how he sang
in the morning canyon
over the history of clay and
to the stream that tipples down it
as if the earth were a cradle;
he sang for creation, this man
my husband as if he were Adam
at the center of the universe,
he sang as if he were making fire,
his hands and feet circling;
oh balance and reach,
how the little galaxies swelled
into the pail’s curvature, one two three four
in a continuum that was
unchronicled, ancient.

Photo credit

About Leonore Wilson

Leonore Wilson received her B.A. and M.A. in English and Creative Writing at UC Davis, and has taught at various colleges in the Bay Area for over twenty years. She has been the recipient of various grants and fellowships through Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts and the University of Utah. Her work has been featured in magazines such as California Quarterly, Quarterly West, Madison Review, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, Nimble Spirit, and Third Coast. Her most recent book, Western Solstice, was released in 2011. She resides in Napa with her family.

Leonore Wilson

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