Mud Season

Tess Taylor

We unstave the winter’s tangle.
Sad tomatoes, sullen sky.

We unplay the summer’s blight.
Rotted on the vine, black fruit

swings free of strings that bound it.
In the compost, ghost melon; in the fields

grotesque extruded peppers.
We prod half-thawed mucky things. 

In the sky, starlings eddying.
Tomorrow, snow again, old silence.

Today, the creaking icy puller.
Last night I woke

to wild unfrozen prattle.
Rain on the roof—a foreign liquid tongue.

More by Tess Taylor

Wedding Album 1977

My parents kissing in a kitchen.
In her loop-eyed dress my mother—

enormous in her belly, I loom.
In a commune in Fort Greene

she typed and typed her dissertation.
Upstairs a woman practiced primal screams,

a wild-haired painter mourned his dying wife.
My parents had already made my life

near the mass grave
of hundreds of Revolutionary soldiers,

a cockeyed brownstone full of junkies,
somebody who stripped my parents’ jalopy

down to wires and bones.
Soon they sold all they had

and drove to Madison to have me.
Had five people over for pie.

It was done then: They were married.
Weeks later in their bedroom I was born.

In piles my mother’s writing
watched us from unquiet bricks and boards.

Solstice

How again today our patron star
whose ancient vista is the long view

turns its wide brightness now and here:
Below, we loll outdoors, sing & make fire.

We build no henge
but after our swim, linger

by the pond. Dapples flicker
pine trunks by the water.

Buzz & hum & wing & song combine.
Light builds a monument to its passing.

Frogs content themselves in bullish chirps,
hoopskirt blossoms

on thimbleberries fall, peeper toads
hop, lazy—

            Apex. The throaty world sings ripen.
Our grove slips past the sun’s long kiss.

We dress.
We head home in other starlight. 

Our earthly time is sweetening from this.
 

Eighteenth Century Remains

   Albemarle County


The ridge a half mile down from Monticello.
A pit cut deeper than the plow line.
Archaeologists plot the dig by scanning

plantation land mapped field
for carbon, ash, traces of human dwelling.
We stand amid blown cypresses.

Inheritors of absences, we peer
into the five-by-five foot ledge.
Unearthed painstakingly, these shards:

two pipe stems, seeds, three greening buttons.
Centuries-old hearthstones are still charred,
as if the fire is only lately gone.

"Did they collect these buttons to adorn?" But no one knows.
"Did they trade, use them for barter?"
Silence again.

Light, each delicate pipe stem,
something someone smoked at last
against a sill-log wall that passed as home,

a place where someone else collected
wedges of cast-off British willowware.
Between vines, a tenuous cocoon.

A grassy berm that was a road.
A swaying clue
faint as relief at finding something left

of lives held here that now vanish off
like blue smoke plumes I suddenly imagine—
which are not, will not, cannot be enough.

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Vespers

In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.