It was all ours, we joked.
A shambled, overgrown estate.
Hackberry trees, wisteria like rope,
the carport and the morning gloryŚchoked
old flowerbed. All ours:
wild clumps of poison oak, a lank,
rust-eaten corrugated shed,
shattered and whole clay pots,
an overwhelming, ripe chaos of weeds.
All ours: wood roach and bottle fly,
hornet and wasp, sweat bee,
the blue skinks and the millipedes,
and leering like a wasted, bloodshot eye,
a red-hot marble spider
clenched at the center of her web.
I can't forget, larger than my
two human arms around,
her supple, taut, and silken net,
or how three moist, green mornings in a row
we marveled over everything she caught:
dew-glistened crickets, clumsy moths,
and phosphorescent lightning bugs.
But what I can't remember now
is why or even how
our words that summer's night turned cross.
Dead certain I was right
(though who could say whatever I
was right about?), I slammed
one door. I let another bang behind
then smoldered slightly out of range,
just far enough where I might still hear
a reconciling call.
But no call ever came,
only the minor, iron cries
of passing Alabama trains.
It was a shallow, touchless night of sleep,
troubled by wind outside,
white thunder cracks and hammer-hissing rains,
but when we woke the world was fresh,
cornflower-pale and clear.
That's been nearly a year.
Sometimes I can still see it flutter thereŚ
a tattered, ghostly, broken web
like floss or silver wisps of widow's hair
tickling the morning air
as if it were a thing that might be said
of sorrow or regret.
But standing in that ochre dawn
I chose a different thought instead,
making a vague remark
about the weather's sudden, gorgeous change
and all our gaudy myrtle blooms
that swayed and dandled overhead.
The Night Guard at the Wilberforce Hotel
Johns Hopkins University Press