For years he secreted shards of words,
a magpie of language. Words creased
the corners of his mouth like letters
folded and unfolded too many times.
Now, his own face is a stranger’s.
He looks at himself in the mirror and says:
“He bothers me; I want him out of my room.”
It’s as baffling as the Hitchcock story
where the murder weapon, a frozen
leg of lamb, is cooking in the oven
by the time the detective arrives.
As if the icicle driven through the brain
has melted: no weapon, no fingerprints.
Who he was has vanished into the snow.
It’s been a long time since
the unglazed light of day touched him.
All our names are lost
in his artificial wakefulness.
I wait in a nerveless way for sleep
or something better to take him farther
than we can follow, where shadows
of birds sweep over his childhood body:
body of light, body of time,
full of joy in the humming field.
Sue Standing is the author of three books of poetry: Amphibious Weather (Zephyr Press, 1981), Deception Pass (Alice James Books, 1984), and Gravida (Four Way Books, 1995). Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, AGNI, Poetry Northwest, The Nation, and elsewhere. A contributing editor of AGNI and recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, she is professor of English at Wheaton College, where she directs the Creative Writing Program*.* (updated 4/2022)
Standing’s book Gravida was reviewed in AGNI 43 by Martha Collins.