Chera Hammons

The Pictures Are On A Tilt

The pictures are on a tilt, shaken by wind,
a hand that came in under the door, teased the
fire, and scattered papers. Van Gogh lost his mother,
his ear, and finally his balance on my wall.

Drops of stars gather in the corner of the frame,
catch on the cathedral, slide off mountains and the
tops of houses, leave ripples around their empty spaces.
Midnight pushes forward, black. The villagers do not
feel the valley spinning, do not see it, but hear it creak.
The ground falls up, the buildings tremble, lights jump
to life in the sanctuary; stained glass blocks the cracking
roads, turns the world outside into Virgin Mary blue.

The left side needs only a lift, the right perhaps a lowering,
and all of it an extra nail to keep it from rocking again. Just that.
It is not unwhole. But it lacks realization; it is a house forgetting
the holes in the old plaster, the water-stain on the ceiling;
pale shed skin of a snake left on green lawn.
And then, too, windows are not doors.

Stars slide down the bell-tower, drip from trees, surrender for nothing.
They leave no face, not a footprint or shadow.
They are not recognition, reflection, or alarm.
Only the small frightened voices of a village routine.

When all has melted, no gaps appear. Things are not unwhole.
Only, sinking, stars watch traces of themselves disappear behind them,
a sort of comet: faces of an imaginary congregation in an oil church
lit by moon; a painting, in a narrow frame, sliding out.

To Matthew

I remember naming you. You would be
someone else except the sound of it did not fit.
You were notes on the back of a photograph,
written down, not keeping shape with many fingers.
The rhyme was lost with every voice touching you;
your edges cracked until concern was cut away.
The silent square of the mirror
shows only the colorless black of eyes,
that void inside the television
which no one has turned on—
a flicker of scales, a rippling speaks of
making forts out of pine needles,
the summer we got snow cones every night,
how you shot a sparrow with a pellet gun
and cried when you found that the clouds had dropped it,
and would not reach for it, and things have blood.
I can see, when the sun slides through trees,
the way I never let you gather the almost-ripe tomatoes.
Or someday I will say, nothing is surfacing,
but when do I walk away?

My hands remember porcelain birds,
the smooth white windowsill;
the place in your hair you almost never outgrew;
that piece of clear that kept everything in—

about the author


13.1 (Fall 2008)   The 2River View