Back to Issue Forty-Four

At Dawn I Left to Walk the Old Road



I know there is a worm in the human heart.
—Jon Anderson, “John Clare”

At dawn I left to walk the old road,
its gravel pooled with last night’s rain.
A few oaks were silver under the dark
steel-light. Although my shoes
scraped the road, they felt bone-delicate
against the long pasture soaked in cool weather,
the faint smell of fertilizer and gas.

The quiet was rare enough to hold, for a time,
a sense of misgiving mixed with promise.
I have kept your poems secret,
but they carry me out into such air as this,
rinsed of spindrift, thick with the stillness of
birds. Your words blow out
like ancient lamps, then flame back
when I step through the darkblue districts
of morning, light forming
against the edge of the earth.

I could find you anywhere bearing
a strange forgiveness—of others, of yourself.
And the call for solitude: a ghosthouse.
If I have come here to thank you,
I restore in myself the veil of green rain
that is lifting from the ground and will
disappear as if it had not happened,
though it changes the land.
Are you bristling in the emptiness of those
black fields, their ungrowing acreage?
Have you suffered enough to clarify
the course. I know you were alone,
though you spoke of being a private friend
to yourself. I know your voice
bore through the disheartened hours.
Who else will need you like this,
like I do, now that you are nowhere.
A disturbance in the breeze
blows into my eyes. What can I even say to you,
who let me into the formal darkness of feeling
when I lack the will to look.


Farm Wedding



And already I am not
bridal, not the center of
anything, but blurred

into poplar stands
and land that has been

harvested. There is just the
lace of dry grass tangled
by the tents, the barest

shapes I have taken
until now, maple branches
overhead and murmured

vows. The gray barn,
the racing cousins, the shifting
sun from clouds.

On the low hills, the treecolor
barely yellow, the buried red

a week before its streaming-
forth. I understand
I own nothing;

I am not owed. The rain
has started falling

but will blow away before
the chairs are even set.

What is it, that
lets me love
anyone this deeply.

Below a few birds thrown
slowly through air,

I am a ripple of silk
in this dress, breathing.
The wide lawn shines.

And just as hanging lamps
darken the blue grass,
laughter sparks

from the guests. This
is the balance of light

before dusk sets in,
when we withdraw from
future pain, when the past

slips from view, and beneath
the laughter and banter,
the rows of wood tables,

a quiet flows. Wind
lifts over the hills—

through the orchards,
over the empty glasses,

the oxblood flowers
in white pitchers—those
who love us now

will disappear—over
the rainwater on the road,

its power and life,
just a matter of hours, just
one long evening,

clearing the few words
we spoke on the
gravel drive, clearing

the path of the spell—which
lifts us above separateness

even as everything
leaves us.





I am tethered to
the sycamore. It’s always
been dying, its leaves

leeched of their green,
the otherworldly trunk
with its patchy bark

glowing white despite
drought. Today reports of
unexpected galaxies

unmoor me—they flourish
in blurred stars and
flashes of color

deeper than I can believe.
Most days the new heat
keeps me bleary,

inside. I can’t yet sense
autumn, its thin cold winds,
the pleasure of wearing

a jacket. I would like
to leave no trace of
myself beyond

my voice. Will I always say
rock and hear water pulling at
stones? What was I

ever for. The deepgreen moss
damp to touch springs
lightly back. And the black

lichen, its scorched
filaments, laces itself
to the boulder


Joanna Klink is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Nightfields (Penguin 2020). She has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She teaches at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.

Next (Miho Nonaka) >

< Previous (Kwame Dawes)