Walking out, I had watched a sky turning from bone to ash to black.I had money and night things stuffed in my bag, I hoped you would see me in the headlights. It fell on the shoulders of my upturned coat, wet my face, my hair, I could hear it falling through the tough, hard oaks and beeches, the late autumn leaves still stubborn on the trees, sounding like birdshot, or grains of sand steadily, finely pouring.
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.
When you come, flanged with light, separation slipping from us like sleep, like garments, I will stand with my hands open, I will take your hands and hold them out to all that is supple, flowering, and wild.
Only now do I see in Monet’s painting of women on the beach in Trouville, the print we bought in Paris just come from Trouville where we walked past the seafront pavilions and I’d read you to sleep in our room on the Rue Carnot, the print I mailed home in a tube I was given by the close-cropped clerk who brushed my hand, called it un cadeau, and you said I liked it, said it again, over morning rolls and Orangina, and I teased you after as we paced the museums, closed the cafés, chafed in the air of cheap rooms, only now do I see how the women look away, bodies opposed, how we mistook their angle for languor, their silence for ease, how only one faces the sea, but her gaze is bent to a book or her lap, it is hard to tell that pillow of voile from the wings of pages, while the other turns stiffly away from the sea as if willing desire to rise no higher than the laddered chair she leans her long arm along, girls in the clothes of women, women in the clothes of girls, their blue stripes and sashes, identical saucers of flowers atop black braids, their faces going blank as I stare, and I begin to think it is not summer at all, but winter, and black bobs in the vanishing point not bathers but boats turning back, I begin to think the one with the book is reading aloud, steadily, intently, over the din of surf and low weather, the wind-wrapped chatter and commonplaces carried past them down the strand how they draw apart from all that, one urging the words they have smuggled away, the other in the hold of that voice, looking fixedly at nothing that is inside their frame, where the full skirts swirl, lift, converge.
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 suddenly how I wanted to forget you, forget everything, that moment go utterly blank, so that I could come back and remember it all from the start to that waiting, alone in the fresh, cold night and the rain ticking, ticking.If you come soon, the budded tips of campion will be split, the deep cerise of coronaria, such delicate velvet on the study, silver-green stems, you cannot help but feel them, and if it is morning, the wild carrot rimmed with dew along its fronded leaves, its thick, hairy stalks, I will spill in your palm the brimming wet petals of milky froth, and touch your fingers to the tight, indigo buttons of bush pea, and the cupped yellow silk of sundrops.We fly down the far side of vistas that make majesty almost tangible, forests like a murky pool we sink in, greening as we surface.II We enter the earth at Big Walker Tunnel, come out to the random Calvary crosses driven in by guerrilla believers on the steep slopes of West Virginia.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.And so, we finally fell asleep like that, loose in each other’s arms, exhaustion itself a ravishment, emptied of arguing, scavenging old ground of our history, the long record of loving, and loving badly.At first light, I woke for good, each time I shifted, breathing our smell in the sheets.I hope you'll enjoy this cross-section of her distinguished career. So dark the night, so close the line of trees, it is as if we had gone under the earth, or the ill- colored wick of moon was the lantern astern on a ship that had cut us adrift. Moths swim up in our headlights like ghost fish darting in black water.I hope, too, you'll turn to Louise Taylor's essay "Exiting Circles of Safety in the Poetry of Deborah Pope," which we present by way of commentary, or to a Poetic Voices interview with Pope from 1999. The silence of acceptance of calamity seeps through the glass. I lie folded as if for burial, your sleeping, stuttering gutturals wheezing like an engine that won’t turn over.