The City of God

Now we knelt beside 
the ruined waters 
as our first blood, 
our bulb-before-bloom, 
unfurled too early 

in slender petals. 
Now we were empty. 
Now we walked for months 
on softer shoes and 
spoke, not quite with grief. 

This morning four deer 
come up to the yard 
to stand, to be stunned, 
at the woods' edge 
on their hoof-tips. Their 

ears twist like tuners, 
but they stay for minutes,
minutes more, while 
we are shadows behind 
windows watching them 

nip at the pine bark, 
nibble some brown tips 
of hydrangea. It's 
been a mean, dry winter. 
The last time I prayed—
prayed with any thought 
of reply, any 
hope of audience— 
I sat in a church 
and the city smell 

of lilac, fumes from 
the bus line, filled me. 
The joys of the body 
are not the sins 
of the soul. 

     Who knows 
how many have come 
to be with us? We
knelt, not as in prayer, 
beside the toilet 

and watched the first one 
leave us utterly—.
They were deer. Now they 
are fog. 
     Now the wind 

pulls back though the trees.
We know it will 
be this way always 
—whatever fades—
and the dreadful wake. 

From Changeable Thunder by David Baker. Copyright © 2001 by David Baker. Appears with permission of the University of Arkansas Press. All rights reserved.