Issue 4:1 I Poetry I Mara Eve Robbins
How It Began*
It began certain as silence, a morning risen
and fallen quicker than you could spread it
over toast. It began with a drive, a long one,
a repetition of drives just like it and nothing
like weeks of when the road closed for snow.
You began to name it, call it something, call
yourself the namer, the keeper of what was
saved. You began to save it when it opened.
It began as an opening. Breadth. It waited
for you tucked curled into unworthy bags.
We began to trust it, remember ways it could
be believed. Akin to jasper or sassafras, it was
neither, but pretending withered the sharper
parts. We began to carry it. Console it. Cry
more. It began as self-determination. Certain
as silence. It began secretly, and grew. Learned
to be alone and how. It related. Softer that it was
not so wounded. It began to make more sense.
They tried to make more out of it. They began
to tell us. They began to go out of their way.
O and when it began to follow, it followed so
darkly, so much like a fallen morning. You tried
to touch it. We made ourselves listen. They could
not take it back. It grew new wings. Wilted feathers.
Worried fur. Streams in blossom and low water.
It began in the ears, straining to wheel
places to other closer places and furthered so
as to be. So as to certain. It rose and fell faster
than names. It sat on the dashboard and asked.
It answered. When I saw it, I knew for sure.
I Told My Daughter I’d Lost Perspective
So I sat down
and I drew her a road
as seen from overhead.
Two lines, a dotted
Another stretched far into the distance
with two trees: one close,
one far away.
relaxed, she patted
my back, asked me
which one I wanted to see.
Where It Might Be
Not the bank
where fire pinks
bloom their last
blooming into new
chicory and yellow
not a suggestion
of the place
where we went
once it was warm
enough to leap
as it counted
down to January
on the warmest
New Years Eve
anyone can remember,
leaving the party
half a mile
up the road,
walking with us,
sheltered for awhile
on the shoulder
a white pine tree.
Not the cushion
let us rest
Not a swarm
The month he died the tree died too
and both stayed dead despite the living
that held them standing not allowing
a vertebrae to crumble a rib to shift
I sit here after the small room
bandaged with steel I was here
the next morning when the trees rose
to prop me before paperwork
plans all the rest and lack of rest
for weeks of stars and stares and sun
those arms that are not arms
leaves too rootless to uphold
Up On Pope Lick
For a long time I called it pulpit creek.
It made more sense to me.
The rocks were tall enough to pass
for a podium, which is what I thought
a pulpit was. But it’s like the difference
between a pollster and a pundit, one
or the other is scientific
or spiritual, which trickles down
to dinosaurs & spaceships & Goddesses
with twenty-four arms.
I have this need for explanations.
Faith or evidence will suffice,
though it’s nice to start with some conviction.
I’m convinced by now that the water
in that creek is always cold.
It begins in a place quite different
from where it loses its name,
becomes part of Toe River,
part of Lake James, part of the Atlantic
which still touches every other body of water.
But still I look away from birds
that beat against the window
rather than loose the bruised
and mutilated light.
They are red and small and sweet
and you are so big with your clumsy fingers
crushing the fruit onto warm shortcakes
with thick whipped cream
longing to know what composes the nature
of growth, sweet and small and often
though you cannot go back,
turn to the warm moon like a daffodil,
you want to. You want to lie down
and roll in the berries like some pastoral
prophet chewing on long stemmed
grass as the goats glance your way.
Instead you are alone in the kitchen
with a plastic basket left over from Easter,
faint noise from the interstate.
I’d call you words if there were words
to call, but there are nothing but these,
made of parched feathers, chipped wires,
missed hours, days of car song and roads
that dwindle from interstate to dirt.
I’d call you music if we could sing in higher
notes, but the low tones carry us further
from home, skipped stones so close they hurt.
I’ll call you water washing breath into the street.
The open palm of summer offers fall
in goldenrod, dry leaves, but the heat
won’t break; I can’t break down and call
again. My bare feet pad the moonlit floor.
I believe in equal measure you are gone
and walking through the door.
* NOTE: Nantahala publishes “How It Began” and “Perpetuate” simultaneously with Floyd County Moonshine, a regional arts journal out of Floyd County, Virginia.