WHAT THIS VALLEY HIDES
The wind that fills this city strips the edges
of the swaying stoplights,
tears the paint and stone from statues,
puddles progress in the gutters,
in a stew of burnt color. How the metal cranes move
together here, face one another
across the shallow river—hunting birds stuck on posts
of their own sleek legs.
and what prey settles among these rocks?
Below the steeple tops like
trout, sparks, thinning flocks, men bend together
inside pockets of the days’
current. Let these lines of steel lie across
the days’ gray light like
a skirt across the sky. The pines along the ridge
swallow rows of six-pack stick-builts,
old men sweeping glass against the baseboards,
fences burning into wild spined rows
into the fields beyond the package shop. This is autumn,
rust on a fender— forget
for a moment that the measure of time turns always
towards the shadow of the pasture
or factory, survival inside the shallow light of shift
after shift, dawn after hungry dawn, Forget now
this place, alive inside the thousand swollen palms
that wilt to rough petals
at its reigns. This wind— a sour ghost stuck
against the sky, a milky body
breaking daily from the Medium’s mouth.
These streets are so shy, they cling
to the past, to violence, to the dozens of men
and their hands in motion.
The endless gasp of working time— the closest thing
to seeing a spirit broke open.
On the train today a rainy landscape fills my pillowcase.
The passing fence posts run up against one another—
a counting off of distance,
thin spirits pressed against the sky.
How strange going home, and leaving a home of my own,
her body still asleep in a pile in the blue morning light.
With no music as my muse, I have lived
here like quiet lightning on the lakes,
like the empty bucket beneath a ceiling leak.
To attempt a life of sincere simplicity,
implies the hardest task of all—
concession so stern it shakes the soul
into nothing but a silhouette, a mere echo
of some sweet and distant song.
I know her hands—
unfolding slow as brittle branches—
will long hang white from lack of touch or warning.
My own are rashed with little deaths
at each patch of field that clips
into the little window box beside my seat.
May I never have to tell a son how much I left
for fear alone, describe the hot tracks beneath me now
as a heavy, haunting metronome.
Outside the dusk lays further down against the sky
and I force my mind to myth.
To love the land, I tell myself, is to love her
sufficiently, even having left.
She too will soon return into that earth
and decompose with all the rest.
RUSSELL BRAKEFIELD’S most recent work appears of is forthcoming in The Indiana Review, NY Quarterly, Drunken Boat, and Poet Lore. He teaches writing at the University of Michigan and works as the managing editor for Canarium Books.