Two Poems by Raphael Maurice
My Better Life in the Country
I suppose I should tell of the things I liked here.
I liked the way hay bales looked liked giant, golden tablets,
and often I thought God would appear and reach down,
take a pill and then drink from a water-swollen lake.
Horses. Just out the window, the fields of wheat stirring against their great bodies,
and if you approached with carrots or apples, you would know love and fear.
You would understand, though you had not yet read of Hippolytus
drowning in magnetic surf, your own desire to be near horses.
I would take sticks and make crosses, taping the pieces together.
And through the fields, I heard hymns and songs,
as I curled like a violin-scroll beneath a tree.
I would awake, crosses at my feet, after a good sleep beneath an oak.
I liked the way my mother, who smelled of fresh laundry, hung clothes
on the line my father put up. I even like to recall them bickering.
She had instructed him on how to hang the cord and where to place the poles.
And he, in his wry, southern voice: Opinions are inexpensive, dear.
I liked him reading from Homer at night. I liked the way the sea,
which was simply the field with its horses and hay bales,
roared and hushed me to sleep. I would drift off with the Iliad
beneath my pillow, muttering, father, father.
And though it burns at times, I don’t exactly regret that later
I would go mad with what he had taught me:
Greek letters on wax paper hung like ghosts from the dormitory walls.
I saw Alpha to Omega borne into buildings that galloped at me.
Useless when a doctor muttered back, ten-year recovery.
Most of all, I liked the possibility of forgiveness. I like it now.
And I have always liked the way memories have an order all their own –
a boy arranging lettered blocks upon the steps of his parents’ home,
or a mare nudging a colt, guided by a logic that we can only witness.
The police caught me near these weeping willows
creeping up lakeside. I gave up under dawn’s
wrack and ribbon. They took what little I had.
And I was long gone, babbling my season’s luck
The county jail. Silent as a brick, stiller than God.
I crashed out on the bunk’s logic, its rectitude. Rectitude.
What a strange word for dead monks to thrash about.
And I dreamed the horse-faced sheriff was reading
from a sacred book. His boots propped on the desk.
His words scattered by an oscillating fan.
It was litany. It was the liturgy at my father’s funeral,
reverent as the edges of morning glories, a reckoning.
It was a catalogue of tender girls I’d loved,
their terrible fates blowing against these crooked trees.
About the author:
Raphael Maurice is a translator and poet. His work appears in the UCity Review, Likestarlings, River Bluff Review, Piecrust, and Monkeybicycle. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, where he studied poetry. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Jill Elizabeth Maurice.
I give thanks to this voice fated for song.
I very much enjoyed reading these poems.
Thank you for this opportunity.