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APGAR

  • When you were born, you didn’t make a sound
  • until they put you on the warming table,
  • cold chick, bluish and mute. The reddened gowns
  • the nurses wore were soaked as in some fable
  • in which the father (that is me), on seeing
  • his daughter’s eyelids shut against the world,
  • her mouth a seam the waxy vernix seals,
  • head a neglected fruit, the fine fists uncurled,
  • moves in a kind of dream. The iron tang
  • of blood on the elemental floor, the mother’s sense
  • of something wrong draining her face, all hang
  • in some between-time as he wonders when
  • he’ll have to tell. But then the light goes on,
  • blood rises under your skin, you raise your arms.
  • You squeeze life in your fists, you sing your song
  • wide open so to break the tale’s dark charms.

Daughter

  • I glimpsed your purple backpack in the woods,
  • looked back and it was just the autumn leaves
  • flickering like fish. The pinkish hood
  • you took your angry shelter in, the sleeves
  • you pulled up to the elbow, even in cold —
  • all gone, only the shadow of the yew
  • that said I gave you up. By now I was old
  • and had forgotten how it happened. Clues
  • came and went like the seasons, more like flashes
  • of you — a curve of golden hair through windshield,
  • pile of bright bedtime books reduced to ashes,
  • your green voice from the corner of a field.
  • Whatever happened happens every day.
  • I haven’t checked the churchyard yet. I may.

Present Infinitive

  • He come up to the house the other day
  • is what we’d say, a persisting present tense
  • of arrivings never leaving that other day,
  • a slip of usage, less important, say,
  • than slipping fan belts or a fading sense
  • that I come up to the house the other day.
  • A well-greased come-along might make me stay,
  • the clicking gears aligning post and fence,
  • arriving, never leaving that other day.
  • On the steps I scraped my boots free of their clay
  • and clapped them twice together. Here are hints
  • I come up to the house the other day.
  • The door sticks crooked in its frame. In its way
  • it tells me where but never quite the when
  • arriving, never leaving that other day.
  • I checked the shed for tools and their intents,
  • the saw’s division and the hammer’s dents.
  • I come up to the house the other day
  • never arriving, leaving that other day.

Paul Bone is the author of two poetry collections, Momentary Vision of the Assistant Meteorologist and Nostalgia for Sacrifice. He has published poems in 32 Poems, The Cimarron Review, The Iron Horse Literary Horse Review, Unsplendid, and other journals. He teaches writing at the University of Evansville and is co-editor of Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry.

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