When William Blake came fashionably late
to parties he’d blame it on archangels,
prophecies broadcast between the leaves
of ordinary trees in the orchard:
those who restrain desire do so because
theirs is weak enough to be restrained . . .
As in Martinsville, Wisconsin, when we
allowed Mike Meinholz to get in the car,
surely a mistake, since the wheels would start
churning up the twelve-packs of Budweiser
he never restrained himself from drinking.
We all have our excuses for wanting
to avoid conversation with mortals,
to restrain ourselves from the fools we are
in the neon light that only darkens
with beer, fears we can never quite drown.
One hundred people trapped in one small town
with just one bar, one church, and one butcher.
Expect poison from standing water,
bewildering Blake would probably say,
if he’d been around to help drag the drunk
from my Impala, down our steep driveway,
to the back lawn where he would sleep, where we
stood that night without the assistance
of good sense, grass, or Romantic verse,
and heard, I swear, a voice come from below
where the woods dropped into the gulley:
a woman in pain, we thought at first,
which nearly made us run the other way,
but then it shrieked like a snared rabbit,
or was it some keening itch branches scratched,
or nothing but a dull thud in the chest,
nothing but what we wanted it to be, then,
some housecat that couldn’t find its way down,
some worried awe that barely held us up,
some trembling thing in a tree we couldn’t see.
originally in Ploughshares (Spring 2008)