Today's poems are by James Hoch

All Things End in Fragrance

Out the window, starlings
            fidget in the wasted caves

of a bar burned down last summer.
They pilfer, figure,

charred wire, booth cushion,
            anything light enough

to haul by beak, wedge high
            between blackened two-by-four.

A nest,
            a bed for the dying
or just born,
                            the birds shuttle

like nurses, their feathers
            taking on what they inhabit,

the way the silk in your shirt
takes asafetida,
                                mustard oil

burning on a skillet, the way,
            Dear Witness, this letter

makeshift and late
the leaden face of broken type,

a shape which, for now, says
Stay. Live here awhile,

before rising into some other sorrow.


Before they plague the figs,
            have their way with the ripe,

before they flee and leave fruit
            pilfered, sacked black, still

hanging for wasps to house,
            they squat hours camouflaged

deep in the canopy, waiting
            for the fig's insistent call,

the pitch a scent, a stir, bi-
            nary night song of the corpus.

Love, if only ours were bird
, not dog whimper, dog snarl,

dog flicking its teeth, tongue,
            dog tracking a fence line,

dog heaving its less sweet,
            less true, undivided body.

Copyright © 2006 James Hoch All rights reserved
from New England Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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