Today's poem is by Mary Biddinger


In place of everything that came
before: the soldier until he died
a soldier's death, ordinary and quick.

A woman traveling east on a train.
Seven boxes tied shut with string.
Ground that refused to be anything

but ground. How many years did they
occupy the space we now inhabit,
the things we wished we'd invented

but knew better? When I first saw
you I became the lesser of two
steeples, neither of them with bells.

I held your shoulder square in my
hand, and miles away a grouse fell
straight from an oak into flame.

You fished my hat out of the river,
so I threw it back, if only to glimpse
the translucence of your shirtsleeves.

We ran through pine woods every
night. I scrawled lines on birch bark
and buried them at your feet as you

pretended to scowl. We counted
the number of ways that we could
pin ourselves together. The soldier

left no shadows in our bedroom.
They'd shipped him back twenty
years before, solemn in a flag box.

The woman waited at the station
eating lemon ice. One hand raised
to block the sun, the train a fly

stapled at the edge of a cornfield.
I would claim that I have her eyes,
but those were lost to the Pacific.

Countless fish surrounded her face
like crinoline, then scattered at once.
Clouded water all they left behind.

I felt her when thunderheads dipped
past the ridgeline, or if you startled
in sleep and couldn't find the light.

I dropped a glass that crashed into
the sidewalk. Instead of sweeping
up pieces, you carried me away

to the hill where they once stood.
She lowered the brim of her hat.
He scanned steeple tops for rain.

Copyright © 2010 Mary Biddinger All rights reserved
from The Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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