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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Vis Vitae


 

When I ask, the seller admits a man died in the house,

but nearly a century ago, of glanders, a disease he says

no one even gets these days, asserting, Disclosure’s overrated.

 

He’s right—lift up a rock and pill bugs scatter

from the unwelcome light—life I could gladly have left unlit.

 

Yet the abandoned past is a burr, demanding attention.

Left alone, paint peels and boards separate,

requiring resolve to muscle them back.

 

I find your letters surrendered, your photographs, curled

as if to shield themselves from dangerous exposure, as if

they might have averted their once-vivid colors fading to dun,

sure as your memories of me.

 

I pass daily this gingerbread house, whose wooden doilies

have survived a hundred winters without breaking, though

much less weather has stripped every artifice I possessed.

 

Locals say the man who built it bridled sick horses.

Let a sick horse nuzzle him, a fatal affection.

 

In the wind tickling the dovecote, I hear his imploring the heavens

to spare him, like a forsaken lover pleading in one last billet-doux

no Earthly lover or heavenly god would answer.

 
                                                            -Jude Hopkins

 

Once Removed


 

My birthstone is not April’s naked diamond, clear

enough to see through, but October’s smoldering opal,

fire seen only through smoke’s veil.

 

Born on the cusp, a cur—alloy, stronger

than iron, yet diminished, bereft of essence.

Scorpio’s untamed itch toppling Libra’s balance.

 

Yet I heard you through a hundred miles of mountains,

narrow two-lane roads and hogweed’s armies,

through melodies scrimmed by static,

their lyrics telegraphic.

 

You unwittingly taught me that love needs intercessions,

so I became Eve, looking to retrieve what I had yielded:

remembering half-heard refrains whose absent notes I’d sing,

lyrics to be divined, more potent than those stilled in song.

 

Wishing for opal’s cloaking smoke,

in exchange for austere knowledge, guilelessly hoping,

like one who waits for a rescinded love.


                                           -Jude Hopkins

 

  

 

Corner of Coldwater and Addison


 

By chance, I passed the old house we rented, now derelict.

 

The casement window hinges have rusted shut, sashes peeling

like birch bark none but weather cared to write on.

 

Optimism once divined in its sky-blue board-and-batten exterior

has weathered to a non-committal gray.

 

We saw flying buttresses and cathedral arches in its wooden frame,

but the house proved sturdier than our vision.

Even as we broke, its old bones remained unbent.

 

By now, the Santa Anas must have swept every room of us—

though I’ve hosted you in all mine since. Itinerant ghost,

you follow me, only to fall like dust in the blanching sunlight.

 

I revel in the over-grown trees and shrubs,

obscuring sidewalks leading to an open front door, inviting trespass,

misread as a summons.


               -Jude Hopkins