POETRY by Jeff Grundy

NOVEMBER 2008: POETRY

by Jeff Grundy

Table

The pen in my hand writes red, not quite blood. If I have a soul,
it might be like this, thin, wet, smelling of copper and iron.

Down on Riley Street, the Baptist workers have drained, cleaned,
and sanitized every flooded basement. They accepted no money

and didn’t preach to anyone, knowing that every touch
leaves a trace anyway. If every slide along the banisters of lust

and gravity is both transient and irrevocable, in the next life
I could be a partisan or the brisk woman who runs the B & B.

I could be the psychic who uses the place to meet clients who must not
know where she lives. She sits with them at the big dinner table,

calm as a forest pool, reading the weary pulses of souls who come
to rest their hands in hers. She feels, from another time,

the doctor whose ego is big as Montana–he sits at his high desk,
diplomas and portraits arrayed behind him like seals

from the almighty. He glowers, clears his throat, not unkindly.
He instructs a meek woman on the proper care of wounds.

And all the while he dreams he is a black dog padding through
luminous leaves, eyes nearly shut, sniffing out the warm prey.

Black Water Snake, Cool Morning

Today the bands of muscle answer slowly,
the long spine creaks. At the pond edge
the duckweed thins and the greenish hoppers

wait sometimes, but this is warming time,
slow lift of the head out of water, above the log,
tipping back, tipping, curve and press, push forward,

dark log and the water releasing, colder still at first
in the plain air as the skin dries and then begins
to gather the weak sun, the dark skin,

any thought but to stretch and lie still
is the wrong thought, any day with log and
even weak sun is a good day, flick of tongue,

yes, eyes open eyes close, yes, the snake dreaming
is not other than the snake awake except
that time turns buttery and vague,

duckweed stipples the long body,
the slow breath and flickering signals.
No need to eat yet. No need to ponder or hope.

The cosmos wheels, gods and empires spiral,
blaze, wink out, a child points and whispers,
the snake’s dark length absorbs it all,

a black mirror open to the sky, a boundary
between art and truth, fact and paradise,
song and water, sympathy and time.

Jeff Gundy spent spring 2008 as the Fulbright lecturer in American Studies at the University of Salzburg. His fifth book of poems, Spoken among the Trees (Akron, 2007) won the Society of Midland Authors Poetry Award. Gundy has new or forthcoming work in Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, Christian Century, Nimrod, Antioch Review, and Atlanta Review.