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.