Bio Note: My Selected Poems was the Poetry Book of the Year Award winner from FutureCycle Press, and my tenth collection, Everywhere at Once, won the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Library Association, as did my eighth collection Ascending Order. Both are from the University of Akron Press Poetry Series.
Only later did I find out about the Battle of
the Bulge, how his squad arrived
in the French village to find the remains
of the Nazi Christmas party
that had only one gift, when they
rolled up the tarp on the back of the truck
to reveal a machine gun.
The only time he told it, he still
choked on it.
Later we bonded over fishing in the Gulf
until his meds got out of whack, thought
the nurses removed the ceiling of his room
so he would be rained on,
or that the snow would come down again
and turn the bodies in the trenches black.
His death amidst the second-growth pines
of Mississippi was his liberation
from the fishbone of memory, hacking
the mass grave in the frozen mud,
and setting them and himself finally free
from the warmth of a living body
and the sky.
Because the day of his death “was a dark cold day,”
I worry that this same drear day might be hers,
my very own poet, though drizzle and fog
hold no fear for me: just the usual
Christmas weather down South,
when the call of my young Welsh blood
(rain merely makes us stronger!)
always brought me out of the house
and into the woods, where the white air
suffused the witch’s fingers of bare trees
like the breath of something huge
on a window pane, or a cloud come down
to live among us, and the swishing leafmeal steps
smelling of a fecund life to come.
So this is a prayer to the Deities
of the dark and cold
of the winter solstice,
and a warning: back off, lofty Death,
I have friends in low places.
Who was the first to take berries, roast
them to black beans over a campfire,
crush them with a rock, bring them
to a boil, blow, and drink?
Or picked a brown
withered leaf, rolled it, set it
on fire and sucked, saw smoke blossom
like a blue big flower?
Or knocked the corners off
a square, and went
whee! down a hill?
Or first put together their
slobbery lips, when there were so many
Or first stepped off a cliff holding
nothing but a huge hankie.
Or broke a line of words
in half, unafraid of all that
©2020 William Greenway
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