Quitman Marshall, “Toads”

Toads

 

Bobby Odom used to torture toads.

He’d string them up with dental floss

inside the boxwood hedge.

His mother was an “opera singer.”

She used to sing on the radio.

I wondered what music did to her

to make her scream like that.

His father started ball games with us kids.

When he tagged you out

he flattened you.

 

Once I heard how it sometimes rains

and animals like toads come down.

I saw them fall on Bobby’s house

and sing of paradise among the clouds.

Not like the stoic toads of ivy dusk

whose tongues spill darkness from their heads,

but like the rain that lifted Noah’s boat

and drowned the world

in one man’s dream.

 

(first published in Blue Buildings)

Pines

PINES

In the dead of winter

when cones are clustered

on branches that bristle with needles,

roots gripped by frozen ground,

and buds in the scud not born,

I watch the pods on bushes

that bob in the wind across the lake

as if I heard a sermon in the cold,

and hearken to a blessing of the seeds

inside the latent packets cased in ice,

but it is a mass of breath that drifts

to the end of a pier, and when the wind

takes it across the ice on the lake, I know

… given the ragged bark and resin … no,

I won’t remember the cold … not at all.

PINES

In the dead of winter

when cones are clustered

on branches that bristle with needles,

roots gripped by frozen ground,

and buds in the scud not born,

 

I watch the pods on bushes

that bob in the wind across the lake

as if I heard a sermon in the cold,

and hearken to a blessing of the seeds

inside the latent packets cased in ice,

 

but it is a mass of breath that drifts

to the end of a pier, and when the wind

takes it across the ice on the lake, I know

 

… given the ragged bark and resin … no,

I won’t remember the cold … not at all.

 

Warren Slesinger

Warren Slesinger, “Morning of the Mind”

MORNING OF THE MIND

This is an inward morning,

A dream-haunted white

While his mind is idle,

And the sun is yellow,

A fluttering light

On an inward morning

When the clouds are moving

Wind-torn and weightless

And his mind is idle,

Head on a pillow

And losing sight

Of the same morning,

Sun going

Over a bridge of clouds,

Mind idle,

Fingers with nothing

But a crumpled sheet

Between the morning

And his mind.

— for Donald Justice

1925-2004