This is the hard land of miracles.
Land of arias over the fields,
land of music made by the god
at morning. Land of nerves,
land of the timpani-heart, savage, struck
by the hands of the blind.
This is the land of lint & Lee jeans,
pockets outturned, begging like dogs.
This is the land of bales, of the final storm
that bares open the earth, does violence,
and, in turn, is spat upon by its own children.
This is the land of early, eager kisses.
This is the overturned log – it too, part of the land –
where she offered herself
leaving chicken scratches on your heart,
the log of days & nights, the map of the rudderless
& hell-bent. This is the land of celebrations,
one boy in a party hat blowing a red kazoo.
This is the land of basement homes
where the owners fail, year after year,
to come out into the sun. This is the lonely land,
land of eminent domain, land of the open palm.
This is the land of the greeter in her wheelchair,
welcoming you to another land, fluorescent,
on the fritz, the new land of the mentholated voice,
hoarse & bitten by the Crab.
This is the land of forgiveness,
the land of good horses grown wild from neglect,
the paralytic forgives them, & so have I.
This is the land where our visions go bucking,
land of stirring and beginnings, land of the sunset.
This is the land of justice,
though no land is. This is the land of sincerity & toothache,
old eyes searching for a daughter,
noses rubbed clean off at the bar.
This is the land of ditches, land of the dogs’ grave,
land from which you can never go back,
return, land of the pillow that hits the hay,
of lightning that can never go home,
land of the bleak snow, of waiting at the door
with presents but never knocking. This is the place
we were ashamed of, that seems now like so many others,
its size & scale reliant on the mind’s weather,
land of the unmapped, land of my dreams.
A HISTORY HERE
My father & I walked across the dead
land of trees & scrub, land of flat stones taking their fair
due of sunlight, rain, each ghost a neighbor in the breeze,
a ghost signaling from a tree’s crotch. The canopy of jeweled leaves
shivered in winds that rattled at my heart.
Somewhere, like nowhere. A copperhead struck out at him
from beneath its rock. He raised the knife, & with a steel-toed boot,
trapped it beneath his sole, inching nearer to the crown.
As it hissed, he hacked the gasping head until it came loose, fell.
In winds that rattled through my heart, it lay forked, still.
We went on, said nothing. Nowhere. Dropping a sandstone over it,
he threw dirt onto its grave, & scored
the earth with the viperish teeth of the survival knife.
This was the spot near creek beds where I’d cried out
to a sapling ended young with my own knife, my own hands.
I’d knelt before it – a history here – I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
When my brother came in drunk
again, they went at each other in terrible gusts
& fists that rained against their bodies, faces,
the front door ruined, my mother looking out, the window
cracked near a cedar Christmas tree. The snow’s silence
crept into the night as she silently rectified the mess.
Nothing was said, like a great, dead pause in music—
that space where we wait for a god or language
to explain how we wound up as we are, here, right here.
about the author:
Raphael Maurice is a poet, translator and writer. He lives near in a small town where the Missouri River keeps its secrets.