The rain over the parking lot
released only flashes
of sky— the way light
skids over broken film:
an actor’s face whole, then
dismantled, flashing once
and gone: isolated from
motions that lead or follow.
Around her, we gathered,
fumbling to hold back
sadness, though we only
felt the periphery
of her grief while
she stared at the building
as if it were a thing she didn’t know.
Inside, we cranked open blinds
to alleviate the darkness,
as she circled the room unsure
of where to begin and we
busied ourselves with other things:
scraping clean days-old dishes, emptying
the fridge and untended aquarium.
When she paused in that doorway,
I’d be lying if I said
I didn’t turn away: her fingers tracing
the angles of the frame,
the brass lock and highest hinge—
the last place she’d held him,
squinting against all the light
we’d let in.
Parking Lot Pastoral
At three o’clock, pickups
spread their rusted wings toward
The light slips back. Windshields
flare. A girl bounces along
a running board, lifting
toward the faded upholstery
of a passenger seat.
Everything rumbles with
possibility. They are
hours from evening. Fall
has begun. A little blood
in the leaves. Trees flash
against a small blue sky.
Earlier and earlier,
the mountains darken.
Their shadows bend in the
valley. The river rushes
push-away is the condition
of everything: a thing
she is learning while
one-by-one, cars rev to
exit metal gates
that lead to a highway
looping hills that rise and
fall like breath. The visor
mirror in her hand records
the highway’s rewinding.
and she begins to know
time as departures, as
mountains shrinking to plains,
begins to feel the pleasure
of what disappears when
the sky bullies the earth.
Alva and the Soldier’s Letter
From the mountain ridge, shotgun
fire deep in the woods. Beasts
scatter. And should. Backwards,
leaves float as if climbing toward their old
limbs, jumping trains of wind they can’t catch.
Or at least. This is how it seems today.
Today a letter. Patrick says: don’t tell Dad
but I’m afraid I’ll never have the chance to write
the word better. Insects goose bump everything
when the wind stills, and I can dismantle and reassemble
in sixty seconds. Tell Dad there’s nothing to fear. That
though I’d never wish it, I wish you were here.
Thy will is an unadorned thing, a smooth stone
in the faltering water. Thy will the creatures beneath
a river’s silt. A cloud half-reflected. A crawdad’s claw,
a tiny wishbone of thy will—which end will I take
when we pull apart? When I close my eyes I hear
it snap: a rough tear at first then the resounding
break. Thy will is an earth-shackled bird, a coop
of litigious hens; thy will is law, a bowtie on the
prison’s fence, my blood looped in knots when a boy
walks by, when I can taste his sweat and think of thy
tears in the garden, when you began to doubt the thing
you’d told yourself all those years: thy will an inheritance,
a curse, the thing a father says so you’ll never leave him
to the lonely rooms of his house, to the rock he made
impossible for either of you to lift.
McKee photo credit: Patricia Heys