Landscape with Figures Partially Erased
First, it's just the faces disappearing.
Because, deflected, as the faces long have been,
with their hunched trunks
and mercilessly twisted necks,
they can only be regarded from a ground's-eye view.
The bellwort tips its fallow head down
in the hot tomato field. The green snake rests
beneath the green leaves, and the air is toast.
Diesel tractors grind to the frontage and idle there,
their heads bowed, too, like giant wooden horses
meant to sack an unsuspecting city.
Down come the earthen walls.
My father used to pour libations onto the ground
from the gas pump's nozzle, and I'd swirl
its iridescence, respire it into my lung's core,
so woozy, so sick, and awed by the vapors.
Fire beguiled me, too. As did the concept of force.
Whole villages burned in a single spritz.
Even now the past gets altered. We forget
because our friends won't suffer that subject again.
Because the students tap their pens uncomfortably,
look around to see if anyone else is taken in.
That's when we figure it's best to make a joke.
I've wandered, now, from the corrugated sheds,
with people half in and half out of nuclear range.
My retention of the facts is not a silo.
Even if it were, some disrepair gets fallen into.
I like to think we dismantle thought
as much as tortuous thought dismantles us.
I have seen sharp men lose limbs. Women too.
A hand pulled off, conveyed into the hopper.
But these were country matters.
Like frilled silhouettes of flowering wild carrot,
white against the mackerel white sky,
the texture is imperishable, the details
so far off. These bodies: their contours
uncertain. Just a general cast to the light.
Persimmons ripen with the first frost.
The bitterness inflicted on them
takes their bitterness away.
Would that there were some other way.
D. A. Powell
Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys
Copyright © 2012 by D. A. Powell
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission