Because one death belongs to us all
“…but often the shadow seems more real than the body.”
—Tomas Tranströmer, “After a Death”
in this small Appalachian town,
we prefer metaphor: suicide becomes love;
a bullet ricochets; and even after the death of reason
something lives where the impression of a body
that could have been sleeping, the grass, pressed down,
springs into commitment:
Whatever else happens in the story,
buckled roots of oak, horn-white, and
bees drowning in sour mash,
entire bridges of stone—hand-carved
and large as church foundations—
collapse where Scott’s creek inseminates The Hocking.
And as if riding a rail car west to the yard,
closed and quaint with local history,
someone will get it right,
why someone else chose to leave us.
And drunk, how we gesture understanding:
You can’t see what disappears, but after a death,
you feel the birds sift through you.
Reading by Streetlamp on Governor Ave.
Because it’s hard to love, the streetlamp hums.
Because it’s hard to see, all those beautiful bugs
beating with their bodies the light back in,
a bat’s attracted.
He feels. He feeds.
And light would be light, could he see.
How smart, though,
to feel the lamppost without touching it?
Is it that it’s warm beforehand?
But then, having been felt,
scanned up and down, not touched—
how this touches me now—
on my sectional couch in broad book-light.
How does it feel to be tumbling back
to the cirri incurious bat
into whose shape?
So he skeets up, edging to the left
to meet the ingenuous flutter,
his blind date. How does it feel
to be love flirting back?
from the Latin meaning “little calendar”
—for Dennis, after his suicide
“Little clock,” little “weather glass,”
pot marigold, “referring to the Virgin
Mary,” unnatural bloom of December,
goes to seed one stalk at a time, as if marking time
were the main business of a flower,
clinching its little fists,
refusing at first to let go,
each soul carcass dark,
microscopically ridged, curled
like the finger nail of the dead
child that it might deliver
the passage of time, this time,
less vainly, more rivetingly, or
reinventing itself, self-seeding
this particularly orange morning
taking care not to brown or burn at dawn
in the fallen frost.
Third time this year it’s made the rounds,
seed to stalk to flower and back to seed,
redundant as self love, but different:
—day 261 of living
since that inevitable turn
for the worse, that might become the present
tense of an orange flower tinged in red:
this one, whose petals skirt a little,
at a stadium on the Ohio River
I don’t love this river, same as I don’t
love this game, the middle
lull, innings four through six,
when the jerky, syncopated rag I was beginning
to settle into
measures of idleness I could steer
a barge through—and it dawns on me
I’m afraid that this boredom
is actually the stillness
pretending to be a dark mirror.
I learn to pay attention. Foul balls
hit their mark, fans who’ve lost focus,
and Bench gestures telepathic
calls, while the batter stands ready
(he thinks) for something significant
and tragic as love across the Moors.
Who can know? It’s like Algebra in French
or shoveling coal in a tug boat.
feigning pity, so She invented
the seventh inning stretch, to prepare me,
I guess, for game’s end, to get my blood
to fill my lungs with a song that begs
to be “taken out” when I’m already there,
makes me shake off the sun and stand
because it’s going to start now,
the excitement; This is it. We
are preparing for the end.
Trees cast their lines, bad calls, frayed ends,
as we coast downriver, rapids
around the bend; the relief
pitcher steps onto the mound,
and though the whole stadium
hangs on his first pitch,
I imagine he’s going to balk,
chancing a pickoff at first.
So what if he throws a strike?
Here in the stands
of Riverfront Stadium,
on the far side
of seven, starting to trust, I
learn fear, unannounced.
It’s Borbon for god’s sake;
could I want? Still,
so much I don’t get: the shame
I’ve known of residual doubt,
even Christ earned it,
his first step out,
such murky water,
a dozen men heckling as they place their bets.
Then, someone close by
starts to chant, the organ chords
building a ramp to the arc
of laughter. I’m learning
it’s okay to join, small
as I am, ignorant,
and completely off pitch.
Jane Ann Fuller has been published most recently in Shenandoah, Waccamaw, and Steinbeck Now. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and teaches in a rural college in southeastern Ohio.