Meadow with Hoarfrost

Now the wire is bare; now it's sheathed 
in blackbirds, a magic that undoes me 
every time: how they alight or rise 
like iron filings drawn by a magnet. 
What purpose to this synchronous eruption
but beauty? And yet, beneath such wonder,
what horrors bulge up out of the given. Take
that afternoon when, still shaken from it all
I cooked a funeral meal. Blind bars of sun
laced the counter, the cold, ground meat 
I rubbed with herbs and salt. I knew my friend 
wouldn’t taste, if he even ate, but the task 
gave me reason not to be still with the recent 
spectacle: the casket, his son’s body dressed 
as if for a school dance, the wrecked wrists
hidden beneath sleeves. If I’d let it, the specters
would split and split, like nesting dolls. Behind 
that impression, another—the ashes of a friend 
who’d hanged himself the month before. How, 
when cast, some of those ashes returned 
and clung to my sweater. The washed-up bones 
of the schizophrenic girl who’d walked into the river 
that summer. This was reality: the raw meat, 
my hands the same dull red, the drought scorching 
the heartland’s cornfields to straw, everything wasted. 
And yet, seasons flicker past like slides, a long
line of traffic, going whether I watch or not, so look: 
here I am, driving fast down a white highway. 
The fields shine in their netting of frost, and every 
last filament on every tree lining the road is plated 
meticulous silver—not a branch untouched—
and these witless blackbirds rise, making 
a sailing vessel of wings: you were wrong, says 
the ship that’s not a ship, that disappears 
into fog, wrong about everything.

Copyright © 2015 by Claire McQuerry. “Meadow with Hoarfrost” originally appeared in Poetry Northwest. Reprinted with permission of the author.