Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


Claire McQuerry

Claire McQuerry is the author Lacemakers (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. She teaches at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

Date Published: 2017-10-20

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