What the Young Wife Heard
It is not her husband's voice she hears
but his father's, a sudden agitation
in tone like swoops of crows
dropping on fields. She watches
as the scene appearsdinner
plates sit in silence, the guests arranged
around the carving of a turkey.
His mother's fresh-turned potatoes
whipped into nervous peaks.
At the head of the table,
a missing spoon at his father's place.
Again the old woman mistakenly
hands him another fork. No one notices
until the fork clangs on the kitchen floor.
All of us bow our heads to our plates
as if we are saying grace. And why
shouldn't a son love his father?
A father who read Huck Finn to him,
quoted Casey at the Bat from his orphan past,
or tucked him under his arm
like a book. The sort of man
who always wore his suit to town.
Now he's gone. All that's remembered
is how he hummed as he mended birdwings,
or grated fiery horseradish roots
by the shed, eyes tearing. And
this last son couldn't understand why
some mornings he woke in his closet,
or why once he imagined his father
hanging in the barn like a deer.
Too small for his chair, he watched
bitter coffee perking, the commotion
of steam against lid. Even then
he knew he should never break the silence.
The Prediction of Flowers
Once your patience
taught me hand sewing, a lady's grace,
the perfect cross stitch, tiny and precise.
I think how you shut me out
these late years, old friend, bone of my face.
My days did not begin until I heard your lessons
how to saw a tomato with a knife,
how to gauge a man by his eyes,
how to plant seeds by the moon's table.
I live your recipes. They push me forward.
I carry your gifts in my palms and my past
with its breaks and islands. A girl born under
the sign of misfortune, the misery
of unspoken questions. This morning,
a superstition of death warns me to call you,
the scent of ghost-flowers, fresh cut,
obsessive, the dark side of roses, carnations,
sprays of sympathy quietly smothering the air.
The Blessing of Breath
Sometimes my bed feels like an enemy,
forcing pitiful fears out.
Then blessed relief,
wind chimes in the window,
strung because I want to hear
what I cannot see.
A reminder I'm alive,
lucky to be a witness
the wind carried from my people
here and gone. I think of my son
and the girl he loves,
and the child she carries
a daughter who will come
in the green month. A remembrance
of my mother's mother,
who arrived in May
from the old country
with her prayer beads and
And even as my breath swims shallow,
this child will use a part of me
on that first day as she is pulled
that other place
the earth spins
to warm her. An old
will lie brilliant across her bed
as this girl thinks of all mothers
and listens for the wind to die
some page of another year,
her daughter will be blessed
with her own child and fear will push
against her curious lace of ribs
as she feels prisoner
that old birth weight.
leaves will stir with generations
of birds and breath
as she stands at the open window
and presses her body
against the dark.
that solitary night, my last pull
breath will cross her lips,
a kiss, from where I am.
Even if they could tell they wouldn't,
not the young calves, or the faithful
watchdog though he stood and watched,
puzzled. He had followed us
to the barn with its simple offerings
of shade and sheets of light falling
from the dark rafters. The soybeans
were no longer in string-set rows
it was late August. The paths overgrown,
coaxed by heat, and running on
for miles with noisy insects
that grew silent as each footstep neared.
I was waiting. That morning
I had dressed for you.
You, of the hammer and nails,
the Dutch-blue eyes, the rusty pick-up.
I had watched enough, studied
the raw wood curling, spiraling
under your touch, knew your scent,
your fingers adept at working wood.
I had picked fruit for days,
the peaches heavy with syrup,
the deep-red apples dropping
at the slightest breeze.
The blouse I chose pulled slightly
at the buttons. I wanted to step out
of flour-splattered aprons
and night's nothingness.
When I followed you to the loft,
the baled oats smelled of dust and summer,
the seeds already stripped from the stalks.
I could barely breathe in the heat.
After I knelt before you,
you whispered, It was good.
As for me, I expected something more.
Deanna Pickard work has appeared in,
among others, Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, New England Review, The
New Republic, Nimrod, Poetry, and River Styx. The above poems are taken from
her book-length manuscript entitled In Dreams We Kiss Ourselves Goodbye, which
has just been accepted for publication at Luquer Street Press.