Poem: Placing the Sight
Updated: Apr 8
Summer reappeared, late, without its wisdom or satchels
of shameless growth. Barbarous in the chilled, traditional
stillness, what is walking should not be. The scope frames
what sprouts from it. Flashing flanks stood out from trees,
just when the land should sink to sleep come year’s end.
Ruddy breaths take stock of the shut-down spread—
tenants’ sprawling, assorted trailers, barrels, and tines.
The knolls still match the dells, the hedges frame their duties.
In between run circuits of wire and post. Come indoors.
Against the slipped latch, a weary fire fills fractured beams,
sogged plaster, and scurrying papers. Christ almighty, etched
on an iron belly, off-centered in a room. The pleasure of the
dead creatures was finding them, spongy and wet, among
unused corn and mixing clouds. Or a houseful : rabies in
dogs and sheep. The chickens, dead. Finding their small eyes
pressed to the foundation, filling eaves, inches from escape.
Another fever dream. If I recall, I wrote this when visiting my parents at a second home they bought down on Virginia's Middle Neck. Ostensibly "in" the "town of" Foster, but really on the water across from the once-bustling fishing village of Mobjack.
Now, the water's edge is owned by itinerant vacationers and a few retirees. Some modest, most all ... not at all. Maybe a 100 yards from the water's edge in all directions, a different Virginia, a different tidewater, remains. Failing, generational farms growing corn and beans just above the water table in soil more sand than anything else.
The pines do whisper. They are not threatening. Nor are the forgotten homesteads, so much. The one that inspired this, the family lives in a modern prefab home across the field. This house, it is maybe 20 yards from the road and yet it is 70 years in the past. No furnace or A/C. No electricity, I think. Swallowed by invasive honeysuckle and omnipresent cedars.
Yes, there were dead animals scattered about. Yes, the stove and its etching are real. And, there had been a fire, and maybe a squatter or group of teens, at some point. The implications of a gun, that's me dreaming of the poacher or other unseasonable explorer finding a place gone awry in a world going so.
A dream of what could be, or what is. One that doesn't have to be, I hope.
Originally published, in slightly different format, in Shenandoah.