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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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THE CARPENTER, PUTTING DOWN HIS TOOLS

 

You would think hammers do not negotiate

but they do, meeting the nail

half way.  But

 

then I think of their claw, how it is already

an admission of failure, leverage

 

on the world that was already in place.

 

No wonder all the other instruments gather

together in their galvanized boxes. 

 

Church.

Each handle shaking in its own little pew.

 

Meanwhile, each half of the claw

shaped like an ear

 

listening hard

for weakness.

 

                         -Daniel Bourne


 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

                        ETIOLOGY 

 

                        We would have to go back to the cradle:

                        the good boy

                        who went bad on the evening news.

 

                        The paper ran his picture

                        every day for a week.

                        But, neighbor, I ask you

 

                        before we forget it entirely:

                        did you ever imagine

                        he would turn out someone else?

 

                        Four-H and basketball, 

                        his lawn job in the summer.

                        Imagine his mother's

 

                        confusion on TV.

 

                                               -Daniel Bourne




LIZZIE BOURNE ABOVE THE TREELINE, 1855

 

                                    I

                                               

This rock is as good as any

to mourn her, the first stone of the burial mound,

 

the pillow underneath her head, small shelter

to stop the wind, the free fall

 

of the temperature of blood.

My ancestor

 

who will always be a girl,

dead on Mount Washington,

 

layers of wool and petticoats

soaked with snow and trapped sweat

 

weighing her body down as she climbed

to the most extreme weather

 

in her bare corner of the world, her

quiet clamor in my mind

 

as I hike up the Ammonoosuc Ravine

on a bright August day almost a century

 

and a half later, my own sweat

tasting like a penny in my mouth, a sign

 

the weather is so gorgeous, so benign

I have the luxury to play around with words.

 

                                                    II

 

Her father, a judge on the rocky coast of Maine,

was powerless to stop her.  His appeals at table

 

a gruff bluster she could skirt.  She just waved

before she gadded off.  But then in the blizzard

 

a mere hundred feet

down slope from Summit House,

 

its strong tea and heated rocks,

she lay down


and finally tried to answer:
Here is stone,

darkness, wind. My blood
flowing slow, my voice

already frozen. Father,
don’t ask

for anything more
than I can give you now.

Sometimes
one can only rouse


to an even deeper sleep.
Father,

will your last words
be as precious

as each one of mine?


                        -Daniel Bourne