available light

Standard

Available Light
Robert Wrigley
And what would I do with another picture

of her nude? The one I have I show to no one,

not even her anymore,
for fear she might

want them back, or worse. But the one
I regret not taking most was that hot

summer night I rose for
a drink of water,

not even noticing at first I was alone,

until, in the hallway of the too-small house
we lived in then, I saw
her fully extended

on our son’s bed. He had a summer cold

and a little lifelong jones for the breast.

He was two, almost.
He’s been fussy from the
heat,

so she went to him there, and then there
she was too, sleeping – and all her long back,
head to heel.

In my half-wakefulness I
stood, ciphering

such a photograph’s mechanics: tripod, cable release,

the long moon- and night-lighted, sepia-
toned exposure….

When I told her years
later how close I’d come,

she said I should have, it would have been fine,

and there lies the source of my regret: her late permission.

Though I think of it now
only as I slip the others

from the safe place they’re hidden in,

six in all: three along a mountain river;

one in a galvanized tub
at the hot springs;

another, fishing from the shore of a mountain lake, in sunglasses –

and then the absent one, framed by the doorway:
on the nearest edge of a
twin bed,

a stuffed bear looking on from the cast-off sheets,

the rasping boy out of sight on the other side of her,

and a particular sheen
on her skin, as if

she’d been basted or entirely, relentlessly kissed,

even the bottoms of her slender, delectable feet

aglow.

Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

 

40s

Standard

Once in the 40s
William Stafford
We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold – but
brave – we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time
when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

outlasted

Standard

On a Picture by Burchfield
Donald Justice
Writhe no more, little flowers. Art keeps long hours.
Already your agony has outlasted ours.

Photo by César Abner Martínez Aguilar on Unsplash

special problems

Standard

Special Problems in Vocabulary
Tony Hoagland
There is no single particular noun
for the way a friendship,
stretched over time, grows thin,
then one day snaps with a popping sound.

No verb for accidentally
breaking a thing
while trying to get it open
—a marriage, for example.

No particular phrase for
losing a book
in the middle of reading it,
and therefore never learning the end.

There is no expression, in English, at least,
for avoiding the sight
of your own body in the mirror,
for disliking the touch

of the afternoon sun,
for walking into the flatlands and dust
that stretch out before you
after your adventures are done.

No adjective for gradually speaking less and less,
because you have stopped being able
to say the one thing that would
break your life loose from its grip.

Certainly no name that one can imagine
for the aspen tree outside the kitchen window,
in spade-shaped leaves

spinning on their stems,
working themselves into
a pale-green, vegetable blur.

No word for waking up one morning
and looking around,
because the mysterious spirit

that drives all things
seems to have returned,
and is on your side again.

Photo by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

tectonics

Standard

Oh how this makes me ache…

Tectonics
Ted Kooser
In only a few months
there begin to be fissures
in what we remember,
and within a year or two,
the facts break apart
one from another
and slowly begin to shift
and turn, grinding,
pushing up over each other
until their shapes
have been changed
and the past has become
a new world.
And after many years,
even a love affair,
one lush green island
all to itself,
perfectly detailed
with even a candle
softly lighting a smile,
may slide under the waves
like Atlantis,
scarcely rippling the heart.

Photo by Ken Suarez on Unsplash