Two poems from Michael Lavers’s After Earth
followed by a note on the author
No green clouds hang like a divine disease,
no hot breath haunts the back of the neck,
no claws clink their dictation across shale.
Oyster-shell sand still scatters the light, but songs
the sea murmurs seem scum-fringed, colloquial,
their rhythms private and indifferent
to us; no tides of purple crabs rising
through town, bearing the dead back down to sea.
And dreams, when they happen now, are dreams:
we bore each other with them over breakfast.
No sun’s blunt fist, no bruise of earth; instead,
leaf-colored leaves, and cow-faced cows,
and nameless toads that spook us while we sleep;
a perfect darkness making shadows disappear,
nights punctuated by someone downshore,
braining an octopus against a stone.
While that sheep staggered
up the gravel road, stooped low,
unsheathing seablush from the dirt,
and through a skin of August snow,
or after, when a whisper
warmed the horsetail and heal-all,
wooing the cows, panning an empire
of reeds for one last pastoral?
While wind plucked everlasting,
miles away in shoaling light
your last words, like a harp string,
snapped: don’t be afraid, you said, and died.
Don’t be afraid, you said, and died
like everybody else, your first cliché.
But day does turn to night,
fallow to seed, hayseed to hay.
Of course you died. But why
should I try stitching wounded air
with breath where yours should ramify
the bloodroot, foxglove, toad’s prayer?
Shepherds plaiting phlox and lily,
filigreeing with their sighs
your vacancy, cannot buck gravity,
or sweet-talk ice, or cauterize
the wind. They loiter and award
prizes for mourning, string a fence
of syllables around their herd
as if claiming the place grief ends,
language begins. They sing all night.
And so, as when a yearling, spooked,
believes its mother might
be there, I turned and looked.
You weren’t. Upstream,
the bees spit out another hive,
and the she-goat’s twins steam,
Michael Lavers’ poems have recently appeared in Best New Poets 2015, Arts & Letters, 32 Poems, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He teaches poetry at Brigham Young University.
Patmos Revisited first appeared in Best New Poets 2015.(Sampovar Press/Meridian).
Elegy first appeared in River Styx.