“For once we’ll write a poem again to wrens to dales to does/to all the things that cannot read a page but read the loam,/the air flush inside their nares, the undulating atoms waving over/an architecture of feathers.”—Sarah McCartt-Jackson
By Claire Bateman
GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—May 1, 2021— Kentucky poet, educator, and folklorist Sarah McCartt-Jackson has been published by Indiana Review, Journal of American Folklore, The Maine Review, and others. Her poetry books and chapbooks include: Stonelight, Calf Canyon, Vein of Stone, and Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River. She has served as artist-in-residence for Great Smoky Mountains, Catoctin, and Acadia National Parks. She teaches poetry and kindergarten. Read more at the poet’s website.
All through the wind the morning is glass:
her heart a seedpod of swamp milkweed, her love
its dried stalk. Her smile is another woman’s
she had only met once before, in her bedroom on their Ohio farm
when the second girl would not survive. Her tenderness
bursts like a crocus through snow. Also another woman’s
she had forgotten, old hat in the back of a closet hadn’t seen
picnic sun in fifteen years.
This blossom has morning skin:
her hands as they reach out for hands to thank them
for coming. Or to hold to hold together. One-flocked
bird fist, flapping for a nest of hands, wrists, elbows, backs,
quilted feathers in her fingers that just yesterday
sliced his cucumber, poured his juice,
had smoothed his face after a morning shave
on his way to work. And their honeymoon
only she is left to remember how and how nice.
They hand her his glasses before they close his body:
His heart is an organ, deep-noted, hollowed tubes,
each tone the color of box or bellow, his empty wind chest’s
valve lids locked, pipes rattled but clamped shut.
There is no song to sing. This is the only song.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon
Without light, a cave takes the shape
of the sound of your heart
becomes all the shapes
of what you can’t see:
the open wound left by a freshly uprooted tree
or sun-filled motes drifting down
onto the tree’s lichen
Darkness marries your skin
reaches into your pockets
(slinks) behind your orbital bones
(and curls up for a nap)
You might hear a subterranean river
but it is the shape a cave takes
without light the sound of stalactites growing
downward cave crickets clinging to gypsum
Each shape is an echo
of the (farthest) deepest place a flame
could reach before dying
on its cane torch the flamelight
muted but the shape of a cave
that (swallows it) becomes it.
For once let us suppose repose is what we need for once
and let us lead ourselves to water only horses drink alone
in shade and let us slip our hands cupped so into our breastbones
remove the ills like beans on string, like shaman pulling ghosts
outside intestines coiled there like snakes in love or stones.
For once we’ll write a poem again to wrens to dales to does
to all the things that cannot read a page but read the loam,
the air flush inside their nares, the undulating atoms waving over
an architecture of feathers, a feeling we will never know.
For once let us begin to stop believing in the lie of time. How
time is space, how space will bend, how we are separated by bone.
One by one the cicadas clutching the brittle bark turn their spiracles to the light to breathe her in. Their breath leaves ours on the sky-veined insect wings of the world fluttering in the edge of lampglow between umbra and fire. O candle whose light we love even as your wax taper wanes. She rattles but we do not even hear her, ears pressed to the cold cookstove, to the ragged beanvines, to the dog’s frothy tongue. O stone torn from the coalface, time-split and aching, receive her shaking tail of sound into each seam. Overturn each rock, unearth the roly polys and roll their husks between fingers so she will uncoil from the corngrass and lie on a rotting barn beam where moles scurry into her open mouth, and then turn one by one their bodies inside out. O twitching cicada hull hatched one by one with her rattle. O rattle. She sheds a snakeskin rustling on our front porch step, the silent rings in which she has traveled. Our yard, filled with each year of her scaly chaff, hisses like the white undersides of leaves blowing before the flood-rains. Each day we turn our faces to the woods, to the shade curled in a fern’s fiddlehead, to the shade clasped inside a hollow shell. O night, let their antennae burn.
Note: “O, Death” first appeared in the Bellingham Review.