Friday Nov 24

LessleyShara Shara Lessley is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her awards include an Artist Fellowship from the State of North Carolina, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, an Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship, the Tickner Fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation prize. Shara’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, and The Southern Review, among others. Her collection, Two-Headed Nightingale, is forthcoming from New Issues in 2012. She currently lives in Amman, Jordan.
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Hopkins at the Window


Past darkness he pitches bits of plaster.
Bats wobble and dart. My eyes are small
and dull, he writes an artist friend, of
a greenish brown; hazel I suppose
. Grey-
gold, the suicide’s own eyes put out
with a wire and stick in a nettled field— 
he’s seen the boy at mass—a medical
apprentice, he later learns, who likewise
liked to paint. In mind or body or both,
I too shall give away. Then, in a dream
his body does give way, or his mind
as the crucified hand he sketches
reaches toward him; he wakes
aroused. A gas-lamp flickers across
the chamber pot, his wall’s moldy
rings. The stacks of exams he knows
are enough to carry him to spring.
Christ’s work, his director assures,
such tests. Of his annual lectures
a student remembers best
not some theory of divinity nor sixth
form’s elegiac storm, but the afternoon
when pressed for his Latin cribs
how he confessed to a toothache instead;
and how the excitable Hopkins dashed
from the room and bade the boy to follow—
out of the building, across the yard
where the priest climbed twenty feet
up a rain-slick football post
above St. Stephen’s green. Pain’s remedy
is prayer
, he exclaimed, tight-walking
the iron stretch between the poles,
or distraction. Now tell me how do you feel?
Yet, there are aches Hopkins knows
that are too real. I never saw a woman
nude
, he tells a class. And glancing
from his text, I wish I had. It’s hills
he sees instead, and the beak-leaved
boughs
he sketches in a letter as trees
outside his window scrape and wheeze
in darkening forms. His December’s
almost worn. My Father, my God—
the daily breviaries past. Gnats circle
and flit toward the glass. The sky turns
wet and mild. A faint rasping
in his chest: how long does the sun have left?
 

 
Border

 
Four kilometers from Umm Qais above Galilee’s steely sea
we make our retreat along an unpaved route, passing a family

sprawled beneath a terebinth. A boy scampers up the tree;
his brother fools with a two-way radio. Along another road

if I saw that, you say, I’d be all nerves. Across some border,
already men are counting bodies, taking bets: first a signal,
 
then the code—three touch-tones, and the convoy’s done for.
It’s easier to see parts than the whole, you explain, of sifting
 
the wreckage of machinery and bone. A half kilometer past:
you stop the jeep to let a herdsman pass—the horned breeds

falling into a kind of rank, long haired goats coming up
behind. A wattled pair stalls near the cave where, it is said,

Christ might have slept for weeks or days after driving
demons into a herd of swine. The restless flock is filing;

the weather’s fine. There, you point, towards Golan Heights,
stuck in the valley’s bed on the Israeli side, see that green-

blue minaret? It blasts Reggae Thursday nights; they’ve gutted it
into a bar.
Which reminds me, somehow, of that brownstone

church-turned-nightclub I stumbled from so many years ago,
drunk, half-numb, back to some partially furnished apartment

(friend of a friend’s I barely knew) where, practically nude,
I woke next morning to a roach scuttling up the overturned cup

of my bra. Who was it that said in order to sleep one must feel
safe? I stared at the wall’s grey, sponge-shaped smudge

an hour (maybe two) trying to piece the previous night together
knowing a headless roach will live a week before it dies

of thirst. Some days, love, I disagree: it’s no less difficult
to see the lot of us in bits. Now, the gravelly click of the jeep’s

wheels rambling down the road. Eight months we’ve lived
in the Middle East, have yet to reach the night I dream

the embassy bombing at Kabul: half-buried, you hold
what’s left—some fabric scrap, a woman’s burning sandal.