Today's poem is by S. Beth Bishop


The air is dry and full of spark. This house
is nothing but an empty tinderbox.
I huff to the cellar with a pile of old papers,
swing the doors flat-wide and meet the seasoned
smell of dark, gnawed apple cores, thawed meat.
The fault in the cinderblock foundation grows
a half inch every year, whistles in wind,
and anything, just everything gets in—
red-feathered mother birds, their throats thick-scarred,
no songs, just screaming eggs through winter cold,
screaming them gone. Squirrels, too, insolent, fat
raccoons, and bats with sulpher eyes. The moon
lights up the moldy pile of kindling wood
and makes a face with—for the world—the mouth
of some starved creature eating its own hands.
The threat of cracking tree limbs heavies down,
full with late fruit. The scrapes against the brick
of the house are curdled sounds, the cries of dry,
despondent apples reaching to scratch a rough
response to browning grass below. All's rotten,
gripped on branches or released, and smelling's
guilt on me. I tried but never could
pick all of them. I'd haul them off myself,
clear the ground before the frost, and scare
the crows off the roof if this old heart could stand
the friction. It's worn, wrung out, just like the rags
piling up by that old gas can behind the stove.

Copyright © 2004 S. Beth Bishop All rights reserved
from The Greensboro Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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