Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Two Poems: Rachel Diem

Gabriel crosses a border

Everything happens at once, so he has to arrive; someone shoves him out the door of a passing car. This happens: a somersaulting hard-scraping skid on the pavement, torn clothes, grit stinging, raw skin. Events occur in space, it has to happen somewhere: some road running north from the old military highway along the border, near Progreso, near Relámpago, maybe. And she has to be there too, shivering in the March wind, waiting for a ride, for the schoolbus, with a group of girlfriends. They call out warnings and taunts as she goes to him. His jeans were pressed, once; his shirt had been clean. The wind has been knocked right out of him. She kneels over him; he rises to his knees beside her; she lifts her hand to brush the dirt off his cheek. He sees sunflowers arching behind her. When he stumbles to his feet he's taller than she is, and skinny, and he laughs, even though he hurts. We don't know what she sees. Somebody new to this side of the border, somebody with tears in his eyes, somebody with wings. We don't know what time and space are, or how they work. He has forgotten air, and breath. He doesn't seem to be used to gravity. Sunlight breaks through the clouds, and for a moment even you can see their halos.

* * * * *


I walk the path back to the cabin
and hear movement in the weedy brush.
I see a badger. He looks at me.
Nothing but yarrow and Queen-Anne's-lace
between us. I move away, afraid,
not wanting to cause fear.
Inside, the clock says it's nine but it’s afternoon;
the clock lives its own time, or none.
The hands move, but maybe it's only
to cover its face.

Empty and blank as a movie screen
in a closed theater, I think
of the badger's appraising stare.
I don't know what the badger sees,
what you see, what anyone sees.
Run away now –
behind the screen are the real stories,
true ones, ones I haven't told you,
not wanting to cause fear.

When I was twelve I walked up wide stairs,
stood facing Picasso's Guernica.
The century turned inside out
and the inside was gray
although I knew it was burning.
We flew from Germany with bombs.
I couldn't hear the horse’s screams, or hers,
or my own, over the thrum of the plane.

I know the badger sees me
as I turn away. Clock, cover your face.
I use dirty words, and the dirt
comes from the ditch where we tossed the bodies.
The badger sees that too. Queen-Anne’s-lace
and yarrow grow up out of the ditch
and I keep climbing the stairs
in the museum of the 20th century,
trying to remember what happens
when the movie ends.

~ Rachel Diem lives in Saline, Michigan. This is her first appearance in the Elegant Thorn Review.

No comments: