blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



American Landscape Painting

Frozen trees fencing dawns’ grey.
In the foreground, the baby floats
above the black lake, spins end to end
in its white blanket, will never fall or break

the clear ice. Think of a Eucharist
held eternally in the mouth’s dark room,
whiteness undimming, flesh
never dissolving. The mother who did this

is gone from the frame, has already ceased
to matter. To say she was caught
is to dramatize the kitchen table, the mug
cold in her hands, the soft knock

at the door, where she calmly denied everything
for the second time that day,
even as they led her to the car,
pressed her in the backseat

as though holding her under water,
the words lost behind the window, the story
winding down to the inaudible mutterings
of a tired judge. Still, the child spins

in mid-air, held by the painter’s brush,
refusing to let go. Why do we keep him
waiting? What story does it tell? Of childhood
and the bird lost in our chimney, surrounded

in all directions by sooty night. It called and knocked
for days, and nothing we could do,
so close as it was, in our own home,
but entirely out of reach. If you go there now

there’s no record of this,
only the still lake that holds,
at its center, the white moon,
but you could ask around and hear

about the mother’s smoky breath
in the cold dawn, wild eyes
and purple shawl, although no one arrived
until later, when it started to snow. 

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