®

Today's poem is by Ruth L. Schwartz

Why We Drive Highway Five in February

               (for Marianne)

1.
Just to see that many trees
burst weeping into blossom:

stung with tears white
as white rivers, pink and fierce

as babies' fingernails,
yellow stamens proud with pollen, blooming

like they'll never stop—
while those black handkerchiefs, the crows

fold and unfold themselves
in the upper trunks,

as if they've come to blot out grief
with blackness, or to worship it,

to lift it with their black black wings
oiled by the sunlight between storms,

fly it far up into the always-
                            holding sky...

Meanwhile, the fat wise cows against the fence.
The herded tenderness of sheep.

Meanwhile, great swathes of mustard and lupine,
sprawl of openmouthed yellow and purple.

Meanwhile, your voice:
It happened, says the world,
like this,
and this,
and this
.)

2.
The tender triangle of skin
beneath the throat, between the collarbones,

where your age shows first—
the crosshatching of the fabric of skin

like cotton faded, pinked,
overwashed, worn thin—
tiny window of flesh foretelling
the coming failures of flesh,

sweet dream of flesh unguarded
as the flayed and lovely heart:

revivified, relentlessly exposed.

3.
The great white egrets in the grass—
each of their bodies an elegant
pose like a stalking, snatching proof
of beauty in this world.

Who placed them here?

And who placed into us
this love?

What force loved us into love?

4.
The rows and rows of identical trees—
those branches still disguised as dead,
these branches riven now by life and light.

The swaddled bodies of the cows,
their raw-rubbed teats.

The fields and fields of sheep, stubbled rough as stones.

The way we turn off the car and tremble, for a flicker
of a second, in the humming silence, before pushing
          open our doors.



Copyright © 2002 Ruth L. Schwartz All rights reserved
from The Southeast Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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