FALL 2009

Cleopatra Mathis


All praise to the light on the wing
of the wasp fallen to the wood floor,
little universe of the dog
waiting while you go away.
But as long as your body sits on the chair,
he's not worried
where you are and when you look up
from that far place, he returns
may I lick your hand: the sign
you give back in the blessing
of a little nod, a pat, and glory
song of the one word:
his name in your mouth.


In my study of the arcs of trees,
the young ones bend, white trunks slender enough
to spring back, or in May's grace
draw your eye away from destruction,
softening the woods however they stand.
But in the bigger ones, I still hear
January's creaking, the ice
exacting its pull in the pines and spruce.
A pause, a sharp crack
and they'd snap, the whole tree
breaking away from the unforgiving heartwood.
Jagged long tears of sapwood
going to pieces as it fell. Violent and brutal,
that was our winter. The ground deepened with waste.


I'm drawn by the creaking --
time to bring the dead limbs down! A forked one
cracks, braced by a bough right over my head.
I screech, the little dog leaps --
oh the chugging engine of her heart,
tongue hanging out, red petal.
More, the terrier pants, all her dumb self quivering,
rolling, four legs swimming in the sunny air.
Clown dog, somersault queen of sticks,
This, it occurs to me, is funny -- here I am,
lost in dog. I regard the big one
lying there, savoring in his masked way,
white angel ruffling. I look where he looks:
eyeing the wind in simple green, a spider of color
dotting the boughs. The black made more visible,
the dead more dead.


Cleopatra Mathis was born and raised in Louisiana by her Greek family. Of her six books, the most recent is White Sea, pubished by Sarabande in 2005. She is the Frederick Sessions Beebe '35 Professor in the Art of Writing at Dartmouth College.



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