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 here 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.
Christmas Eve in Frankfurt
How is the most fine gold changed!
the stones of the sanctuary are poured out
in the top of every street.
Saget, Steine, mir an…
As if oblivious to rousing winds
or the nightmares of the monuments,
snow settles its burial cloth
over the bombed-out Roman bath,
brimming a beggar’s eyes, balming his hands,
downing boughs where drowsy pawns chase
kings across the park. Another mass
dissolves in pools of wax and candle smoke
uncoiling like the staves of Bach,
framing a stranger’s stained-glass face.
How rich had life together been. How silly.
How wise to shadow stars through Germany,
with, between us, one piece of luggage,
one prodigal speaker of the language—
one last fling before responsibility?
How efficient, like a watch’s gears, the wound syntax
of names, dates, the few surviving facts
with which occasional gold cobblestones are stamped.
One where we queued at the finanzamt,
still two, to give our names, be taxed;
and everywhere. Everywhere
we cavalierly kiss, not unaware
that as river weaves its tapestries of ice,
Earth hardens to paradise,
and prayers unravel into air.
But we rejoice. Adore the word-pierced nave,
the dark the flames annunciate, believe
in tempera and the devotion
to a stroke that froze a brief ocean
of folds into eternal robes; believe
Hades is fed, and heaven’s in the barn,
that we beget no happiness alone,
that we’ll forever crown the hills
whose trembling, soft-cheeked Neanderthals
sowed their lineage into garlands of stone;
that it was this that made the oxen bow:
the black earth’s whispering tenantry, an undertow
where fallen leaves still loom and seethe
and ferns recoil in springs of sleep beneath
the merciful, indifferent snow.
Michael Lavers’s 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 (Samovar Press/Meridian);
Christmas Eve in Frankfurt first appeared in The Hudson Review (Summer 2015, 67:2).