Poems of the Week

11 Dec

THREE POEMS BY FRANK STANFORD

The Nocturnal Ships of the Past

There was always a great darkness

moving out
like a forest of arrows

So many ships in the past

their bows bearing women
as stalks bear eyes

The burning ships

that drove their bowsprits
between the thighs of dreams

With my ear to the ground
I hear the black prows coming

plowing the night
into water

and the wind comes up
and I smell the sour wood

leaving a wake I want to be
left alone with

Night after night

like a sleeping knife that runs deep
through the belly

the tomb ships come

Linger

The moon wanders through my barn
Like a widow heading for the country seat

It’s not dark here yet
I’m just waiting for the bow hunters
So I can run them off

They put our licks on my land
Every summer

When it gets cool the animals are tame

I’ve fallen asleep
In the trees before

I dreamed someone’s horse
Had wandered out on the football field
To graze
And I was showing children through a museum

The bow hunters make their boys
Pull the deer’s tongue out bare-handed

At dusk when I hear an arrow
Coming through my field like a bird
I wonder what men have learned
From feathers

The animals wade the creek
And eat blackberries
The wind blows through the trees
Like a woman on a raft.

Sun Go Down

I spent many afternoons
On the shore
Looking at my boat

Especially in the fall
I breathed on my cold hands
And watched the clouds

Mosey over
Like blind men
Picking apples

You have the feeling
The past
Is like a woman

Who ran off
With everything
But your belongings

There were never friends
When the weather was bad
Just visitors and books

Sometimes strange birds
Flying south
But nothing stolen

The water lied through its teeth
Like a draft
That seeps in at night

Making you sick
When you go to bed
With wet hair

I can’t remember
What afternoon it was
When those men showed up

Other boats
Landed in our cove
The crawdads

Under the rocks
Told each other
To keep quiet

One of them wiped his nose
“Step back boy
A dead man here”

*All from The Light the Dead See, University of Arkansas Press, 1991.

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