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Summer Poem

 for Dorothy

read by the author

You buried your mother
Under the belly of the hill.
You did not ask permission:
Carried her there, hacked out a hole
And planted her,
Then planted a plum-tree over her.
Each year you light a ring of candles
And sing the songs she cared for.
You sing in joy, standing on
Her body, and the song goes down from your toes
And into her bones, the city
Of insects and minerals and living things
She is quietly becoming.

I woke this morning thinking of her
Whom I never saw.
Last night, a hungry deer
Dragged at her  tree
With his blind teeth, and killed it.
You laughed when you saw the toothcuts:
She would have enjoyed his hunger —
The animal, obeying himself.

You will plant another tree in her:
Crab-apple, cherry — they’ll bloom,
Or the deer will savage them.
Let it be.

Our daughters bloom
In the late
Sunlight and water splashed
On their quick bodies.
Stripped off our stale clothes
Plunged with them
Down to the floor of the dark pool
Among the mud-slime and the pecking fish
Rose up blowing spray
Rinsing the shadows from our brains
Roved like dolphins through
The blue space of summer,
Enjoying hunger
Work of our hands and backs
Belly of the cow pulsing
Against our cheeks,
The house climbing the hill like coral
The white moon striding over us
As we slept with the crickets in the juicy grass.

Woke this morning, thinking
Beauty is, yes, of body.
A thousand books fell from my mind,
Leaving only the pattern on the pinewood ceiling.
Thought of the deer’s teeth,
Our daughters, their small
Breasts budding, their shyness —
And then we walked on the living grass
Over your mother’s body
Over the bones of many people —
Mothers and sisters and exhausted soldiers —
Over all our brothers sleeping under the hill.