Sunday, November 30, 2008

HALLOWS by Kathryn Stripling Byer

1.
These leaves at my window,
death-speckled black oak and blood maple,

fall to the earth into which
she was sealed, leaving me

to imagine I see through the hollows
of what were her eyes how another day

breaks on the backs of the scrub pines
that stand up to welcome it.

2.

She was no saint.
She never fasted,
and if she prayed,
I never heard her

aside from the Lawsy
she uttered as down
she sank onto the dark
of the chamber pot
while I tried to be sleeping.

She stirred up the fire
to roar every morning and beat
the dough smooth, shoved it into the oven
to bake and be eaten.  When I hear Pavarotti
sing Panis Angelicus, I see her hands 
deep in the dough bowl,

and I hear the fire in the stove rumble,
I hear her chuckling and sighing,
she who could never on this earth 
deliver unto any table a dry piece of cornbread,

whose old-fashion cakes 
that lay solid as flesh on the plates 
put to shame every paper-thin
slice of town ladies' angelfood cakes.
(Any honest-to-god-angel

would have preferred them,
a dollop of whipped cream atop
every thick slice and after that, oh,
just a touch of her Christmas divinity.)

3.
Los Muertos.  The dead.
They are out there this morning,
in the woods with the busy squirrels
laying up treasures on earth,
this heaven of acorns and walnuts.
This granary.

These last dawns before the leaves go,
I wake early to watch from the widow
my dead ones out there in the wood
leaf by leaf come
to rest on the ground
where at last they have nothing
to say beyond what's meant
to lie on the earth and be claimed by it.


Previously Published in Southern Poetry Review.
From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

2 comments:

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Nancy, this is a beautiful post! Thank you so much! I love the way you arranged the poetry and the photos--my goodness, those b&w are old ones. I need to learn some blogging tips from you.
Love, Kay

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Dear Nancy,
"Hollows" is a great poem by Kay Byer. It reminds me very much of my Ma Ledford and the Matheson Cove.
Great blog, Nancy.
Brenda Kay Ledford
http://blueridgepoet.blogspot.com