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Winter 1995, Volume 12.1

Poetry

 

Kim Bridgford


Kim Bridgford (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is the director of the writing program at Fairfield University. Her work has appeared in
The Quarterly, North Dakota Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, and The Georgia Review. She won the National Society of Arts and Letters National Career Awards Competition in Poetry (1983), and was a Tennesse Williams Scholar in Poetry at the Sewanee Writers' Conference (1991). See more of her work published in Weber Studies at: Vol. 13.2 (poetry) and Vol. 20.2 (fiction).

 

Apology
      For Pete

The other day I was trying
To talk about your father,
And the words came out
As easily as butter
Or milk or coffee,
A litany for strangers.
I was calm as a newspaper;
I was that gray.

While I was speaking,
I could see him lying there
In Rose Hawthorne,
His cancer in full foliage;
Across the way,
A man coughing
In rasps the size of misery,
His wife holding his hand.

I am sorry for everything
I am unable to say.
When I kiss you,
Death is on our lips;
When we make love,
Death has wings.
If only I could do more for you,
For your father who has so much cancer
In him and so much goodness
And, soon, not room enough for both.

 

Pigeons

Leaning out the window,
Where the dusk holds a chill
And someone's pigeon is flying home,
I try to touch the past. Foolish.
As if years are dusty bottles
To be brushed off and held.

Instead years shrink to a smudge.
I see pictures of myself—
My hair clipped close,
My look amused or startled—
But they make up a stranger's life.

Why did I think I could have it,
That slippery yellow-gold thing,
Light-licked, a moth?
When did I become so present-bound,
Fierce as a pigeon who flies like death
For no other reason than
The hot hole is home?

 

The Last Countable Kingdom

It's almost morning,
And the sky is gray with shine.
Snow tips the grass; the road is cool.
Yellow huddles against a low window
Where the insomniac follows a map
Of the universe, learning the names
Of planet-paths, of each sad sun;
And just next door the night watchman
Scrapes his boot against the milk bottles
While he hunts for his key.

We're sleeping in a twin bed,
My imprint against your body
Like a new fossil.
Your heart centers my back.
I want to tell you how ready
Everything is,
How the flowers are crippled
In their bulbs and wanting
Burst scent, flung bloom,
Color, color, oh
Now, and they turn in the dark;
How lights are just about
To be sprung;
How the unswept dazzle
Hallows the earth,
And the trees know their own black roots
Are spilling out into the air…
Where will the branches go,
Black moving into gray,
Into white—star, sun,
The lonely astronomer's
Last countable kingdom?
My hand is white from the window;
I feel all winged. And in an hour or two
The paper boy will toss news
Across the snow;
Cars will sputter;
Children will jangle
Every pale dark neatness.

But now you touch me.
You touch me.
I turn and touch you.
Look! The window is a star,
Surrounded by after-space.
Our skin is sweet and cold.
Gentle, gently
We undo the world.

 

Thirty

Everything in the house is white.
In the main room
The window is all leaves.
Green and white,
Green against white,
Rainy green, painty white.
The traffic is a slow, sure howl.

This is what it's like to be thirty
With adolescence, like a dumb train, past.
All the clothes in the closet
Look a little tattered, smooth.
Under the window silly with greenness
I exercise and dance.

When my husband comes home,
Walking up the red steps,
I ask him to brush my hair.
He turns on music, and he brushes.
The traffic is terrible this time of day.
Brush, sweep, and up the hill
Goes another ridiculous car.
The tree is knocking its leaves
Against the glass, saying,
Thirty, thirty, thirty.

 

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