Four Poems by Deanna Pickard


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 superstitions.

And even as my breath swims shallow,
     this child will use a part of me
          on that first day as she is pulled
               from that other place
               while the earth spins
           to warm her.  An old gypsy moon

will lie brilliant across her bed
     as this girl thinks  of all mothers
          and listens for the wind to die down
               in the cottonwoods.
               On 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
               of that old birth weight.
               The leaves will stir with generations
          of birds and breath

as she stands at the open window
     and presses her body
          against the dark.
               On that solitary night, my last pull
               of breath will cross her lips,
          a kiss, from where I am.


The Cabinetmaker

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.