I never noticed that before.
Jane Varley is the author of a memoir, Flood Stage and Rising, published in 2005 by the University of Nebraska Press. She has published poems and reviews of poetry and fiction in literary magazines, and her nonfiction writing recently won an individual artist grant from the Ohio Arts Council. She has a Ph.D. in poetry and creative writing from the University of North Dakota, and she is an associate professor and coordinator of creative writing at Muskingum University in Ohio. http://www.muskingum.edu/~jvarley/
My Father, on his First Walk after Having a Heart Attack
That stalk of light through trees,
so bright, like heaven, really, the way
it angles through and makes a thing
seem a moment. The concrete,
the lawns (these big houses and nobody’s
gonna bother these weeds: let them
do their thing), overlook to the city—
but I always love that, it’s why
we bought the house, our deck with its view
to the old city on the river plain.
This morning, hands looked like tools,
hands looked old, like an inheritance
of my father, though I never saw my father
get old. It wasn’t his ticker—
he went early, drowning, when I was
too little to know him or know better.
They said this was just age anyway,
and cholesterol and bad luck.
I ate a whole peach pie in a day last week,
knowing I shouldn’t, but the new neighbor
brought it down after I helped carry boxes
three floors to the top apartment.
It was delicious, with a flaky crust
and the peaches, they must have been fresh,
baked golden, almost red. I zapped it
in the microwave and put three scoops
of vanilla on the side. Doctor said
peach pie fine, but don’t eat whole ones.
Doctor said wine fine, but don’t drink
the whole bottle. Afternoons on the deck,
with my wife, overlooking our city,
if I was the kind of man to say
I would like to live a thousand years
I would say it today. The sun has moved
now and the leaves of Tony’s elm
are blocking it out completely.
Look at that: the sharp edge of shadow
making a line down the sidewalk.
The Icelandic Horse
In the midnight sun
the horses come
to the fence, maybe
a dozen or so,
with invented patterns
I have a touch
on the rutted plane
between one’s eyes
and more heads
around the site
of my hand
like a conductor’s
baton and music—
the horses are the music.
Meriwether of the Midwest
In the woods behind the school, we play
Lewis and Clark, and this time I am Clark,
snapping a milkweed pod,
digging my thumbs in to explore the silk,
to tug off the brown seeds, offer them
in my palm. Can we eat this, Meriwether?
He looks with care, bending over to inspect,
tiny seeds, dreams, woods, wider maps.
No one is watching. No one knows
my brother and me, how we travel the wild, the deep-
inside of these woods with only the language
of our game, questions about sustenance,
pain, and the trail of blood we left high
on that mountain pass. Once in the trees
over by the public golf course, we saw
an owl in daytime, a stump of anger
shunning our march through its forest,
a real presence in a place I had imagined.
It was early summer. There was the green beginning
of Queen Anne’s lace and heavy starling flocks
wheeling all in one motion, many all at once.
The trees seemed light with see-through leaves,
and the flowers, the bushes, they were low and ungrown.
Those starlings, they tried to lift the sky with a wing
made of many wings, from the compass of the world
we knew and, with vigilance, waited to be made.