There, late spring, in the cover
of stinging nettle we find the body
of a bird. You think it’s a sparrow,
I say lark, guess it must have hit
the window too hard. Maybe
it was my fault for growing plants
inside, or keeping the window too clean,
a perfect mirror of the sky. Maybe
it thought the house a haven, a place
to raise its young. I say we should bury it.
You say to leave it for the strays
I’m always feeding and then I bury it
anyway, pick out river-stones
and gravel for the mound. That night
I dream of the bird, its twiggy, mangled
leg, the shattered beak. Can’t shake
the guilt of family. Next day I rise long
before you, morning itself still foggy
with sleep, to pluck away the stones, hope
the lark or sparrow is a different kind
of Christ, that it might live—
was Mary so different at the tomb
of the Lord, only kept back by legionnaires
of Rome? Even Jesus took three days to rise
but patience is a virtue I have never known
and here, in the shallow itch of nettle
I have no soldiers standing guard.
The bird isn’t kin to Heaven despite
its wings and I know nothing of divinity,
or of motherhood, or flight.
The bird is still a bird, but slightly less—
a lark or a sparrow, almost-seraph trapped
in the darkening whole of the world.
To the Second of Many Horizons
It’s storming when the plane
takes off from Arlington
but by the time I’ve accepted
I’m moving in the opposite
direction of rain, we break
into the clear blue of infinity.
Horizon, on the ground I thought
I knew you, thin band clinging
to the earth like a lover, but here
I understand that you are more
like the mushroom I found
in my garden last spring
and there is never only one.
Here, a second sea above
the sea, still vapor, still alive. Here
lightning flashes like the silver
throats of eels, narrow bodies
in the wisp-thick ocean of cloud
where thunder is the crush
and crash of tide, ever reaching
for the impossible love of the moon.
Horizon, that I could find
your edge and tumble over, rid
myself of this strange sympathy
for God, forget that he will never
discover anything. Never awe
at the turning prism of the world.
Back on Earth, someone is taking
a shit. Someone is laughing.
Someone is forgetting
their name to find the subtlety
of death, the only home
that God can never know.
We go to the cemetery to read tarot
at Emily Dickinson’s headstone, but
arrive to find her plot bound up
in iron fences, lavender growing
through the bars. Instead, we settle
for the graves of strangers, try to laugh
when we ask about love and draw
The Hermit, pull Six of Wands six feet
above a Catholic priest. Pretend we know
what any of it means. The city locks
the graveyard gates at sunset, but I stay,
and they don’t see me lying in my summer
dress in the too-tall, sun-browned grass
that slips like spirits through the stones.
In the late June breeze, too warm for dark
in Massachusetts, I imagine the grass
and the crunch of cars beyond the fence
are the voices of the buried. I hold
my breath, let small insects crawl
across my naked thighs and shoulders,
let them sample my flavor with delicate
jaws. I practice being dead. Below me,
somewhere, someone’s mouth opens
to the lithosphere and fills with loam.
I pretend I hear him rattling
in his shell, hear them all, rolling
over and over as if in restless sleep,
people stuck in boxes stuck
in people—cicada-humans trapped
in diminishing husks. I practice
being dead with them, rattle
my living fingers through the grass
and remember all the things we’ve fed
to the stones: mothers, babies, old men
who died in their sleep, and every
time we cry tragedy. I remember
reading of a storm in Ireland
so wild it ripped an ancient tree out
by the roots. Tangled in them the bones
of a thousand-year-old body—of a boy
younger than I have been for years—
a tragedy even though by now
he could have died of age six and six
times over. I wonder what tragedies
the oaks of Amherst will uproot,
what forgotten things we’ll find time
to mourn again. I practice being dead
but I’m no good. The cars and grass
are only what they are. I will leave
this place to the buried. I will pick
the lavender and take it with me. I will go
on loathing the world for what it keeps.
How can we fault the Earth for her hunger?
Look at all she gives.
RAYE HENDRIX is a poet from Alabama. Raye earned her BA and MA in English from Auburn University and is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. Raye was an honorable mention in both Southern Humanities Review’s Poetry Prize in 2014 and AWP’s 2015 Intro Journals Project. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cherry Tree, The Pinch, and Shenandoah, among others.