Monday Mar 08

Mackey-Poetry Pete Mackey is the author of Chaos Theory and James Joyce’s Everyman (UP of Florida, 1999), various essays and articles, and numerous articles and speeches for university presidents and other leaders in the U.S. and Ireland. Since 2006, he has been at Bucknell University, where he serves as vice president for communications and community relations. He studied under James Dickey while earning his Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, and earned his B.A. and M.A. from Case Western Reserve University.
Inside Her Garden
The sun fell freely through the mesh deer fence,
The material being too thin to interfere
Or leave on the ground any trace of its design
As he helped his mother with her garden,
Covering the newspapers they had laid in rows
With handfuls of straw while she raised the hose
To soak pages against the catch of the wind.
In the idle months between fall and spring
These layers of straw and faded news would smother
Weeds and restore the soil, as her mother,
She said, had taught her, and for a while he works
Hard in the path of his mother’s shadow,
Daydreaming, as boys do, of everything
Else he would do when they were finished.
But when pages shudder and begin to rise
Toward him on the ruffle of a breeze, his eyes
Land upon headlines and photos from the war
And his mind begins to swim. Everywhere
He has turned his entire life it has been
In the background, on TV, in conversations
His parents tried to whisper without him,
And in his silhouette as in another dream
Darkness falls where the brim of his cap lies thrown
Over the dead looking up as he looks down,
And he sees around him news stacked in bales
Leaving stains on the ground as long as graves
Beside tools glinting with the shine of guns
As he imagines them, and bullets spent
In all directions caught in the flint of stones
That follow footprints behind him too close
Or the other way around, broken limbs
Taking shape inside the body bags of debris,
And a face, and a mouth left in a scream
Presses against the green bursting toward him,
And he looks up to look away to find
Leaves blown in a ribbon of what remains
No longer alive along the base of the fence
Moving toward him from all sides with fingers
Lit and trembling – until he sees a body
Plowed in black and white across the ground
And thinks for a second they have him until
He hears her asking, “What are you doing?”
And shades his eyes with a hand to look up
And see a familiar shape framed by the sun
Standing over him with her face hidden
In shadow and behind her the deer fence
Protecting her garden from what does not belong
Here as she has tried to tell him before.
He turns back to the pages around him.
She is watching, and he covers some more with straw.

After the Fence

It took days with a crowbar in his hands
Swung full force, one rotted board at a time
Taking the brunt of the steel and splintering
Or breaking loose of the old post, a doorway
Flung open toward the abandoned pasture

With each board removed. He wrenched each post
Loose from the ground and its shadow with it,
Post by post rising with him as he rose
With his grip under the nails the boards
Had hung from, and it all fell at his feet.

He let the fire take care of the rest,
The wood turning to cinders and ash
That found updrafts with the smoke and spun
On currents away from him or discovered
His sweat and became a graying second skin
Over his bared back and arms as he shoveled
Dirt into the postholes darkening under
Him as they filled. Finally his shadow lay
Flat upon the surface he had made
Whole, and he had nothing more to do. Time

And the ceaseless spread of grass and weeds would fill
In where the fence had stood and the land would
Seem as if it had never been broken.
He would have what he had decided on –
This clear view, this piece of earth he was letting go.

As the Fox Moves

Looking for room
To breathe
Amid the argument
Of arguments
That spring
They step outside
To find silence
And clothes
On the line
Becoming the shapes
Of bodies
In the breeze
And the fox
Sunning himself
Till he sees
Seeing him
And as if
Had motion
With one look
The way foxes move
As if not parting
The air
And under swelling
Forms, passes
Through the leaves
Of the bush
He never seemed
To have left
Leaving them
Near the line