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Editor's note: I'm pleased to present a brief anthology of Deborah Pope's poetry, including three poems from her debut volume Fanatic Heart Passage; Two A.M.; Hard Climb Road five poems from Mortal World Leaving; Radiant Season; Les Voyeurs; Resolution; and Boy Blowing Bubbles and five poems from Falling Out of the Sky Lines from the Book of Days; Cura Animarum Outside Canaan, West Virginia; Pavane For Sleeping Children; The Third Lesson: Betrayal; and The Angel Yet to Come.
Voting signs fly by, lifted in the wind that stirs the weeds in unhitched harrows, petunias in painted tires.
At Morgan’s Landing, in their giant alembics, the nukes bubble and brew.
I long for rain, I long for my child to cry out, but he goes on as only he can with the steady small bellows of his belly, his sleep soured head in the crook of his arm.
for my grandmother I Driving home to her funeral in September, we head down the Piedmont, taking the freeways that run by fields and outlet malls, morning stretching away under the benign and vacant blue skies Carolina is known for.
She said to me once, I do not feel old, it is only something about my face. The crossroads of Winfield, Fenton, Frazier’s Bottom, drowse on the Ohio floodplain.
In the dusk beyond the window, I imagine her last meal of chocolate and broth spooned in by my father, her head like a boiled egg under his hand. This is a sky that knows limits, even the animals are few enough to point at, Angus like burned stumps in the fields.So young, they forget even this as it happens, will hardly remember a figure so spectral and frail.I remember holding old prints of her in furs and leghorn hat, laughter rare for photographs of those days, the backdrops a lawn lunch or running board, beaux with bears and pocket swags.There is an air as if the people had gone, left work waiting in the yard, the tobacco half-strung, gone in from the baskets and clotheslines, where shirts flap brainlessly, like hands endlessly waving goodbye.IV When we come to the river at Gallipolis, we are on the last leg home. The names of country roads fall away in our headlights Grace’s Run, Tranquility Pike, Hard Climb Road they toll the stations as we pass. Along the ridge the twilight trees move like a procession of women in black mantillas bearing the moon aloft, the delicate tracery of their silhouettes vanishing.Hollow into hollow, valleys interlock their fingers, our road winding like a rosary between them. The children pester and fight, sleep and stare, their hours dragging.They know nothing of the passage that has called us back.Near Bluefield, the “Gospel Light Trio” goes by in a bus.Now the pines rise straight from the interstate, the turnpike traversing rock risers high over towns named Paint Creek, Cabin Creek, Skitter, and Laurel.And I thought back to the last tired words you had spoken, of that late winter midnight you sat with the knife, thinking only how and where you would do it. It was your own white arms that stopped you, the thin curtain of skin, the pale, raised ribbons of veins.Innocent arms, you thought, how can I hurt them, the quiet in your voice as you told me, its own separate finality.