Back to Issue Twelve.

AND THE MOUNTAINS GREW SIRENS

BY MATT MORTON

 

It was her lavender hands,
the wrinkles soft like crinkled cellophane, and the valley
where we stayed full of log cabins, yellow tents, 
schools of rainbow trout shimmering the pond.
Like a shepherd’s crook the moon 
guarded us, a tear in the canvas of dark, throwing 
its light on the nervous mares stamping 
the stable muck. The pines, all the pines glossed 
with milk. Glued to her side by the window, 
studying wings. Flash of sky: blue jay. Blacktop smeared 
with blood: red-winged blackbird. Her hands. I wondered aloud, 
overwhelmed by the whoosh of the highway 
cars curling by out of sight down the hill. 
And the clifftop triplet of crosses some hiker had strung up 
with aspen and twine. Bodiless. Looming like 
an empty well. She showed me them 
but then that night. Her face, 
no one saw me see her face, all its light burning out. 
She was not a deer in the meadow then she was 
a ghost. A skipping stone 
makes circles, but a body makes a stone. 
They washed the lavender off 
the pillowcases. They caught me looking for her
bones in the piano, and if it was not her why else 
would the middle pedal stick halfway down like that. 
What is left over is less than before. 
The word for that is stop. Forever 
my dad said, which was a zooming out. I was small, 
they wouldn’t let me see when the curtain closed. The black 
between stars, up and far away. They said God but 
when they sang their eyes were shut. But if 
prayer. I held my brother’s hand and we stood 
when they stood, and I could see it 
leaning on them, heavy their carrying hands 
when they passed in the aisle. But did she stop. Then 
and there I made myself, all the streaming-in light 
stained by paint on the glass. And the snow 
erased the Indian paintbrushes and the birds 
went with her, the field where 
no one walked, all a rushing, like bats, 
the storm of her going.

 

 

Morton 12

Matt Morton received the Sycamore Review 2014 Wabash Prize for Poetry. He has been a finalist for a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a finalist in the Narrative Magazine 30 Below Story and Poetry Contest. His poems appear in Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, West Branch, and elsewhere. Find more at www.mattmortonpoetry.com.