Wednesday Sep 20

HammonsMillerChera Chera Hammons Miller’s collection Amaranthine Hour is a recent winner of the Jacar Press Chapbook Competition and is forthcoming in the fall of 2012. Her poetry has appeared in 2 River View, Improbable Worlds, and other publications. She is a winner of the 2001 Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers Award for Poetry and the 2011 Barbara Bradley Poetry Award sponsored by the New England Poetry Club. She is currently completing the MFA in Creative Writing program at Goddard College in Vermont. Chera lives in Amarillo, TX with her husband Daniel, two horses, a rabbit, and a cat.
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Papa's Armistice


 
The red and white silk square
with its flags of the Allies and
its faded outline of the Peninsula,
creased with the old wallet's folds
and yellowed with sun,
is the one souvenir
he brought back from Korea.
 
Shells and carvings, pictures,
war trophies and weapons,
the soldiers bought some of everything
for the people back home.
As the woman took his damp coins
she must have thought of a young wife
waiting to bud on a faraway tree
as she herself was soft hips
under the thin dress starting
to bloom.
 
How strange to them both that somewhere there
wasn't jungle and water. Even the leaves
either sweated or rained.
The rice paddies too
never rested,
frogs and snakes slipping into canals,
and insects singing
under the fat faces of the prophet.
Maybe she became an old woman,
 
who knows? He would not tell us
anything about the war. There was a hole
between the gods and a confusion of
missing brothers there.

I always wanted to ask him why,
of all the things he left there
and the things he walked away from, buried,
he saved the cheap silk picture
of a dripping country's outline,
 
but I suspect that woman
who didn't hate him, who touched
his hand when he counted out his money,
who stood like a watercolor tiger
in the purple dusk,
was the only way he could come home.
 
That gaudy scarf was folded so small,
so many times,
to fit into his pocket.
 
 

Amaranthine Hour
 
I.
 
Time has said all things
that could not have been said with other mouths.
When I cry “hello”
the hills pass it between them
until the voices fade.
Trees bow to the weight of air, a
shapeless strength
like a pale morning frozen in slats along the
walkways, and
the part that keeps going:
the sun daily swallows the dawn:
larks raising the sky in
their throats, blue-tipped clouds under the flight
of geese, the morning caught in the coats of horses
waking to dew on summer grass.
Life rises to the sky that calls
and cools its blood; bodiless wind steps the stones
—not bodiless, but without lines, without figure; or
—not formless, but (-indefinable-).
 
II.
 
I am not a citizen, patriotic though
I may seem. I can speak in many tongues,
with many voices, whatever you like.
The cities tower, and I can
write of love. But let’s be honest.
No fires can warm
such metallic distance.
Objects from so far become only blurs of color,
a slow shutter on ambulation.
 
In the diamond of eternity, brilliant and still,
without age and more than antediluvian,
our noise cannot save us.
 
Even our silence would not be enough.
 
III.
 
Children remember their gods, and their groves
by the green trees upon high hills, and the
blond prairie that carried the wind in its
golden breast like the echo of hymns in church bells.
The night watchman watches music sliding to his feet
under doors through the otherwise quiet streets.
 
IV.
 
In the ancient house vases spin from the wheel,
containers crowned with the dust of clay gritty
like ash on a child’s forehead, or sand on his hands.
I am a pebble worn from some larger stone,
and we are all together a highway for buses.
 
This side of the grave ends and begins,
with no center and many centers,
a line between two places and one and many places.
Time is a king, is a King,
it is a wooded place, a wind-swept
Desert, an ocean-buried shadow of Atlantis.
 
In the potter’s hands the clay is marred
 
The day holds undeath and death, blessing and
curse, without discernment.
 
V.
 
Arms of wheat carry thunder east to the
grassland from the western peaks. Rain
creaks on the roof and cries thresholds. Though
not beginning here, it forms. It ends and divides.
Though not heavy, its belly sways with life.
 
VI.
 
Over the cold stone, through the
damp earth to the hollow heart of wood,
I bend my head. I cannot reach through the
layers; voices here are faint. Their names are faint.
The shadows seep into wet granite
where history crumbles.
 
My child, as the mourners leave
without their flowers,
while I lie with folded hands
before the amaranths and sheaves,
 
Do you sense that I am near?
 
VII.
 
When we wake
We are strangers who discover
the night’s empty expression
in our nakedness.
Someday through myriad roots
and muffled streets
we will hear our descendants
singing songs strange to us.
There are nonetheless
wild-throated flowers that consecrate
the hollows of the fields
and cabbage butterflies.
 
We are neighbors now. Let’s
be neighborly to each other.
Lot’s wife keeps turning to the burning city and
the hillside erodes with enthusiasm. The
one who casts shadows holds a lantern
on the stairwell.
 
VIII.
 
Call, and I will answer.