The Cradle Bones
Neither the cloud nor candlewood.
No longer a thin mystery of myself
or jug wine drained in a lungful time.
Neither the sallow, half-shed moon
nor storms hunkering East from Pennsylvania
from mounds of slag to this
city with toddlers and migrants, steeples
or car repair. Close to the woods and the cropped farms,
the neighbor who backs over the curb and parks
in his imaginary drive, or the neighbor who lets Santa Claus deflate
all winter, backed by the dormant roses.
My body forgets its vertebrae and embarks on a network
of fascia and muscle, less
spiny than dense more ice and crystalline fins
inside the transparency of us
though I am not the segmented seahorse, that wisp of an
equine mermaid curling its tail, relative to a teacup.
I am not ghost tales told around
the solstice, nor so steady that I don’t have fears living
in this distant, Jersey town, worn stone, republicans,
and poverty the town’s empty gazebo
down on Main by the boarded windows
and the center of our life up hill on a slope of rock
with you, unsleeping in the soft crown
of the night and hushed by kindling in the sycamore.
My grandmother wizens to bone in her pine box.
Blackness mills with scraps and silt, her birdcage
of ribs, congress
of holocaust survivors, refugees,
immigrants who landed
in tenements and coal dust, who climbed, like her,
to their wool and wooden rooms
before marriages, pre-fabs, and sprawl. Perhaps
we should forego cremation, claim plots
by the turf and scree of hills, insist on
violets and bracken fern, butterfly weed,
fat bees and hummingbirds.
We’ll rise as slips, hover in fall meadows, cup thistles,
startle the grown-ups, drift in eternal shoelessness
over treetops with hosts of sparrows.
I will never ghost you. There is too much freight
between rupture and rapture.
We will rapture this house. You come home
in men’s tees and workclothes. If I drive in the mountains
I turn to spiny mist in the vertical space between leaves. The river
impatients the morning, rain mussed, and stippled
as my voice folds. I have bagged speech.
Shoppers cross in their masks at Home Depot
for hinges and weather strips. We staunch what we can.
As a child I unearthed a pipe beneath our swings,
trailed it through crab grass, wild aster, snake root, and dog scat
while the fence crept with ditch lilies
that cruised D.C. alleys in the wind-pressed
thrift of circulars. I never struck gold. Years later
my mother heard rats scuttle through basement walls—
invisible for years, even as we’d clapped
Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, who longed for elephants
to jump into the sky.
Rebecca Reynolds has published two books of poetry, Daughter of the Hangnail and The Bovine Two Step (New Issues Press). Her first book received the 1998 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers University, NJ.