Emerson Susquehanna (i. “When we have lost our God of tradition)
Not thaw brought to the river—
thought, long winter a surface that holds
no current or image.
And there’s language laid down like that, mind
locked in a long walk through the chill of a single word, and there’s cattails
fraught where water’s not
any longer, and God’s a pall called down to mind the meaning
given a life. Once thought
the word makes mind too small
like Bible-colored Sundays all study and chalk and exotic
potted palms dotting a holy land
entirely crayon and the lavender mimeographs leave
on the hands. The word God has always been my mother’s
my sister’s hair, three strands gathered in a braid so tight white at the parted dark
roots stood out, word
a migraine in its wake, word endured alone in a room. Shades
drawn over pain, word’s
a mind’s light ingrown, caught, nitid knot snarled upon
from thaw, we walk—o trees, trouble,
tremble at the roots of being, underneath,
under laws, the order of things
so deeply a violence and unnumbered like the snow.
From Sight Map (University of California Press, 2009) by Brian Teare. Copyright © 2009 by Brian Teare. Used with the permission of the author.