Ryan G. Van Cleave is the Anastasia C. Hoffman Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Creative Writing. His work has appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Quarterly West, and American Literary Review. His most recent books are Say Hello (Pecan Grove Press, 2000) and the anthology American Diaspora: Poetry of Exile (University of Iowa Press, 2001).
Night will be upon us like an open-
throated vase; we'll find ourselves
on the inside, eyeing up through the neck
at our future in the stars, the raw face
of inconstant moon, darkness like
the ratty copy of Hamlet I found
in the garage with half the pages eaten.
We will spade up the old tulip garden
and bury Charlie, the charcoal-faced
chihuahua you loved like everything
God had commanded the fire not to burn.
We'll try to hold steadfast as our bodies,
that capricious flesh, dissolve into song.
Two Boys in a Field on Goto Island—August, 1945
They kicked a ball between them, a soccer ball
an uncle made by sewing sheep bladders together.
A pair of budding azalea bushes served as the goal.
The older boy stopped to adjust his glasses when it began.
A baby wailing, the younger boy thought, remembering
Hiroko's colic and the bleary-eyed months until she grew
out of it. Maybe some sort of bird, the older boy wondered.
A noise filled the day with shrill, a thunder screech of bright.
Then it grew hot and the ball burst. The rush of air knocked
the younger into a patch of wild roses, blood oozed from
the thorn-wounds. The older boy shrieked as the lenses
of his glasses fused to his eyes. Then he began to melt
like a crayon left outside in summer, first orange,
then purple, then blue-red; he bled into the grass.
The younger boy wept as the light uncoiled over him,
afraid their mother would be angry if they weren't home
in time for supper; to lose, to have lost, meaning eternal.