"Cardinal Points" litetrary journal: www.stosvet.net

print version  

               

Steven Schreiner

A WISH YOU CAN'T TAKE BACK




Silk


                                          Yellow and heavy, one last ray poured .
                                          Into a fresh bouquet of dahlias.
                                          And hardened there.
                                                                                                  Anna Akhmatova


I chose the flowers quickly
the day I came to see you
home from hospital,
your baby on your breast,
and I waited downstairs until
I was asked for. I didn’t wish
to see you like that, wearied,
torn, your clothes disarrayed
as though a storm swept through
and you—and this—remained.
Arriving in the room, I saw
from a distant door I once
had called my own, you there
in the corner far away and small.
I thought to see, when my eyes sharpened
in the window light
shutting out all I couldn’t
take, the father, lounging in silk.
He slept on in the next room
and you were as you were. For you
waiting in my arms as if I carried
the cut-down, tendered blooms
across a rain swell or a wave
washed ashore from wherever
the unwanted go or come back from,
the vivid, foolish, clown-faced daisies,
the coarse, lumescent, faintly ghoulish
metallic petals of the eucalyptus.



Camp


Under the cloud pierced moon through bare woods
along a frozen stream, cold as I am
and heartsick for my lost ones, aware
that I had saved myself from
going out like a flame
in the burning chill of the cold snow falling
conscious of the stiff guns and warm uniforms
with my thin frame whittled down to driftwood
and knowing I had betrayed more than one
was shoved and did stumble
cast no shadow finding that the time had come
to worship servile, triumphant death

It is the flu
I waken from
the sheets soaked fever broken
alone    like a wish you can’t take back



Steppe


You remember loving people
— uncles who were fathers’ friends,
an aunt who came each day with bread
and cookies, walking her crooked step
past the bakery. You were her brother’s
child and your mother his widow.
That step of hers in black
shoes.
        A bird like woman,
her knobbed hands and black eyes,
her hair still black, how brightly
she loved you, in place of your father,
so you wouldn’t know he was gone.
You can love someone this way
when you don’t expect anything
in return.
        Don’t call it
a virtue though. Grief powers it
the way a generating station lights
a town in the remote cold.



The Snow


Now they’re collecting the snow
we awaited so expectantly
and for which we have only one word.
Here we do not say snow before nightfall,
wet snow of rush hour, snow
like new dimes or snakes on a dry highway,
snow like cake
rising on the branch,
unforgivable spring snow
burning magnolia blossoms, shivering
in the throat of a crocus, snow that hurts
the eyes, that makes you want to turn
away, snow that falls on the tongue
of the ocean,
snow that squeaks, snow that whispers,
that no longer stirs the limbs
of lovers, snow of parting
falling on two, one lonely
and one in love with snow,
crazy snow circling around
like a father who can’t find his child,
that makes the night too bright
to sleep; inconsolable
snow that falls upon
a widow’s veil and melts
as she walks from the garden
of stone, snow
that makes the night a negative,
snow on her already
purchased plot, snow in the grove
of flameless cedars.

One kind of snow to be dispensed with
the day after.