No One Dances
Each night before sleep the man with three fingers plays
the mandolin and wishes for his missing digits back.
His left hand. His right is normal, and when he thinks
how he lost them he remembers the impossible shoulders
of the black horse and the white of its teeth, the spinning
shaft of the power take-off and the hum of the mower.
Each morning he fumbles with the laces of his boots
though it has been decades since the horse. Some days
the handle of his coffee mug slips and dances away, twirling
in the early sun, trailing its dark dress in an arc of frozen
air and he remembers then that the last time he had
all of his fingers he had a wife who bore him two sons
and she too whirled away, though the music that played
behind her flat eyes was consumption, and the ballroom
a ward full of white beds. No one ever danced for him
anymore. No one listened to him while he played, while he
moved his missing fingers over the long body and felt the
holes; each a reminder, a stab in the dark, the motion
of the wings of a bat in a dark room. Did I say it was
a mandolin? I was wrong. It was a harmonica, and his fingers
flipped and shimmied and the harp wailed and moaned
and even the cows turned to look.
The Time A Man Thought I Was A Deer
Maybe it was the steam of my breath
which gave me away. In the air
bullets sound like a high whine or whistle
that might have come from within,
like screams made from
a long way off.
My grandfather told me you don't hear
the ones that hit you. He had one less
arm than me but one more war.
I picture him skinny and young and driving
a tractor through the orchard, the way my
grandmother describes the day she first saw him.
I never asked her to tell me about the last day.
Somewhere in that orchard are things we both have lost.
The sounds of the apples falling. The pasture emptying
of cows and on each swaying hip the flies dancing
away from the lash of the tail. His son.