After the First Child, the Second

            for Chris Martin

To you
through whom

these sudden days
blowse & hum

thirst & quench
a tide of tensing trees

days tick by
beats in a song

my body grows
fuller each day

I think my life
has always been

for this quiet
darkness

your forehead
& eyelashes

face pressed
to my breast

your skin a texture
electrifying

my fingertips
wool on cotton

wool on glass
the fibers rise

& I can’t sleep
for being alive
 

More by Mary Austin Speaker

A Score for Tourist Movies

If music plays with film
then film is an illustration
of music’s movement.
Snap, blast, sever, sever, stop.
Even the dog twitching his ears.

If islands nestle in the ocean,
and a statue rises above the pilgrim,
then we are standing on a cliff
and the pilgrim has reached her goal.
The light is as pale as the back of her hand.

If the dancers twitch arrythmically
their dance is only partly kept.
At twenty-four frames per second,
film makes a lonely memory.
They sway staccato, staggered, stretched.

If drums repeat the pace
of film’s slip through the gate,
then the song’s refrain
retells film’s fades and cutaways.
Even its night-quiet darks.

If horns evoke an antique joy,
lens flares and close-ups send
their renderings into red relief.
How has mankind managed grief?
Light, noise, movement, breath.

If blood is to the body
as film is to the camera,
if film is a flat and lucid eye,
if light is a perishable gift,
then the night is the gate of the dark.

If light falls away with always
then film is a parcel of rest.
Panoramas, linked and strung
as castle-steps, lawns, the fine
iron bars of the castle gate.

If drums pace the beat of blood
and film is the speed of the rattle
of breath, then the dancers have
truly escaped us. We slow
as they quicken. We go and go.

Related Poems

Song for the Festival

At the May Day parade, my mask made of moss
and bark, my hair full of flowers, my friend beside me,
her pretty red mouth under the hawk’s beak
of her mask of green sage.

At the children’s pageant, music
died in the speakers. The shadow
of a crow passed over. My hair a crown
of flowers, yellow and red roses large as fists,
flowers on which I’d spent my last $20
at the mercado.

But beauty wasn’t enough. Being admired
by strangers was not enough.

I saw a girl, wandering, looking for her mother.
I knelt down, lowered my mask, showed her
my face. She’s looking for you too, I say.
She tries to spot her mother’s yellow dress.
A gold dog passes, happy and white-faced,
wearing pink nylon fairy wings. The girl points
and laughs; the hard part of her day
is over.

The people I’m looking for—I don’t know where they are.
I don’t know the color of their clothing. From across the park
I see the dark windows of my apartment.

Spring has arrived.
Let me not despair.