(Untitled—from a series of poems dearmother)
In Harwichport Summer
in passing rain: clatter of fence/ boarding house set back
Two shading trees from beneath which the women first
appear Each—evening gown draped
“Did you hear—” one asks.
They stop. Something in a store window.
The men move past, and the motion, the movement
or the memory of it—
At the hour of sleep
a quiet sound of sandals
and seats in a theater: sunk in-
the clear smell of blacktop after rain
There is a way in. Heat against a door 10 a.m. August. Ships once lured through false
fire here to their death on sandbar or breakwater and villagers plundering what stores then
they could, taking in, as if afterthought, any survivor to live among them. And one
hundred miles further, 1692, women pressed beneath rock to confess a sin not theirs cry out—
Long after childhood, what was then passing became random as if image or film,
each edge darkened before the next without thread or touch: its own absolute.
Locked ward, 1985: They ask that we write a story about ourselves and the woman sitting beside me
laughs. She is the same woman who, each evening, when I call from the ward’s single phone
on a table by her room (which smells of prayer) appears holding like a fisher’s gaffe a
pencil that she jabs—not to break skin—in silence at my hand until I leave or simply hang up.
Today is the first time I’ve heard her voice.
like bees stunned
where water begins.
Noon: Pitch pine, black oak and bearberry.
A child’s string trap undone where the crab has settled to feed.
Harbor: mudflat and clay. Day pulled like a blue sheet.
I count my steps. Twenty-three. The path is familiar and halfway I find
What I’ve come for, wrapped in tissue, hidden by the base of a log
Four small bones—a bird perhaps, fallen from its nest and stripped
—hollowed, nearly air
Alone, color faint, like clay, like ribs formed feldspar grain of cliff sediment
Above some four hundred miles, each knuckle, slumped and windblown, gray
As if some great whale thrown across a single tooth of land. And light is
bent like old men
fishing this coast,
or a fetus
where there is none. How, twenty years
steps from a room—her gesture a way
of naming. On the Cape I recall coming awake without air
(the first stirrings of asthma) and Mother would quiet me, tell me to sleep, her fingers
on my chest the rise & arc into memory of an old house (its stilled rooms—
and a single curtain in a second floor window behind which someone silently retreats)
Just so, Mother would say.
Don Judson’s fiction has won a Bobst Emerging Writer Award from NYU Press and a MacColl Johnson Fellowship. Poetry awards include a 49th Parallel Award, and the 2012 Boudreaux Prize in Poetry from Cream City Review; he also recently won the Thin Air poetry competition and received a nomination for a Pushcart Prize from Palooka Magazine as well as being a prize winner in the 2013 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and receiving an honorable mention in the 2013 Nimrod Literary Awards. Publications include The Bellingham Review, 580 Split, Rhino, Witness, and New Letters among others.