Skip to main content

Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
Home
Contents
Biographies
Submissions
Archives
Editors
Contact Us
Publications
Policies

Five Poems



Window

The old window
in the farmhouse
is always
part of our story
when we tell each other
about the ghosts.

Perhaps it is
an accident
of our imaginations,
like the greenish glass itself—
pontil marks
air bubbles
slight irregularities.

 

But the one looking
through the glass
two hundred years ago,
squinting to see
the fields beyond,
pressed her head against
its imperfections
and wished them gone.

She longed to see
her daughter near the horse—
Was it moving
as she mounted?

her son with a basket of wheat—
How many sheafs?

But her questions
were caught
in the waves of bottled green,
only now to be released
in the hazy shapes
of our whispered tales.

 

―Laurie Patton


 

Cellar

Today the tile man came
to fix the stair.
He told us
about the river
that runs below the house.

Twenty feet under,
a green current
pushes through.

I have heard it.
The air has always moved
a little faster
near the porch.
In the winter,
the pillars settle,
and in the summer,
the mosquitoes swarm
for no reason.

I have smelt it.
I have lit lamps
to cover
the stink of swamp,
and made excuses

to the guests
as they stepped over
the threshold.

Ten years ago,
I would have called
the tile man’s friends
to help.
I would have watched,
eagerly,
as they climbed

into my cellar

to measure, and sniff,
and mutter
about the value of cement.

Their boots
would have made me want
to make love
later in the day.

But now
I will not call those men.

Instead, I will let
the mosquitoes nest.
I will let
the green push
of the river
enter my dreams.

And when I lie down,
and the heat rises
in these unruly limbs,
the current will be
a beckoning bed
that might soothe
these veins
in cool, brown
tributaries of rest.

―Laurie Patton

 

 

Hallway

 

My mother and I

have been having

a conversation.

 

Noah’s ark stands

at the end of our hallway—

doll-sized, in painted pine.

The Noah-doll

leans on the gunwale,

his arms outstretched.

My mother had arranged

all the animals

in straight rows of pairs.

That way,

at the end of the hall

past the rugs

and the old stoves

and encyclopedias

with fraying corners,

my mother sees order.

“They like being in rows,”

she says.

“And Noah is orchestrating

all of them inside.”

 

One night I snuck down

and made chaos instead:

I piled zebras on turtles

and twisted geese over tigers

and separated rabbits

from their mates.

I made them run in all directions.

 “Noah is desperately trying

to get their attention,”

I told my mother.

That way, at the end of the hall,

past the old planks

and brass lamps,

and straight curtains,

I see effort and sweat

and the longing to bring

panicked creatures

in from the storm.

 

I learned later

that there were no windows

in the ark,

but only a pearl

that glowed by day

so that everyone could see.

 

What we see

at the end of the hall

is the difference between

rest and restlessness,

nightmare and dreams.

 

―Laurie Patton

 

 

Bricks

The earth was perfect,
until one day
they had to make an altar.
“Make bricks!”
the old gods said.
And so they did.
“Make an altar
in the shape of a bird!”
And their sweat
poured down
on the earth
while they arranged
the dusty wings.
“Not good enough,”
said the gods.
And so they started again.

My father was perfect
until one day
he asked me
to help him
lay the bricks
for a path.
“We didn’t go down
six inches,”
he said,
“and your grandfather
is coming soon.”

 
We got the last brick in
before the old engineer
got out of the car.
He handed me
a cinnamon candy
and looked down
at the ground.
He smoothed some sand

between the bricks
with his shoe.
Without looking up,
he said,
“Did you go down
six inches?”
My father nodded.

My garden was perfect
until one day
the bricks got moved.
The roots
of the peony bush,
red and rotting,
had pushed them
into the air.
The hose slithered
between them,
hissing water.
I kicked them
back into place,
secretly hoping
they would move again
in the night.

 

―Laurie Patton



 

Porch

 

On my porch,

people say what they want.

 

Sometimes they swear

as the squirrels

take out mothballs

from the potted plants

with their teeth.

 

I don’t remember the first part

of your sentence,

but I remember the second—

“…and I will tell you when I find

some kind of order…”

 

Right then, a firefly

behind your head

singed the night.

On my porch,

people say what they want.

 

They could call it:

longing.

or:

luciferase.

 

Either way,

in that insect light

order became

a sweet wet leaf,

a trembling lure

among the jagged stars.

 

―Laurie Patton