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.
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.
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