Memory of War & Elegies

Memory of War

When lightning wallowed in the orchard’s lap –
that raw, sudden violence from the clouds almost
offhand, it seemed to us, whom the hard crack

knocked out of sleep, guessing – we went and touched
the ruined tree, as if it asked for touch
or fed a human hunger for broken things.

A bright smell of stripped apple wood whetted
the dawn air, as the last rumble of storm lit up
the shattered limbs and naked spines of trunk,

clean among the winter’s stained leaves,
a sharp smooth architecture of weapons aimed,
right then, where we stood, sky-threatened and new.

 

 

Elegy 1

Like a report to you: a riddle
about the ants’ trails on the ant hill,
the sinuous involvements of grass.
A breeze arranges late details
among the last, grey dandelions.
The wood thrush you loved
pours music through his throat.
The maple mutters in its brilliant shroud.

Do you remember, in beginning spring,
how we stopped laughing and gripped hands
past the bench by the pond, because
a man was weeping mutely, tears
shining on the backs of his hands?
Then, farther on, the ignorant, sexual
daffodils managed exclamations of yellow
earlier than anything else in the woods?

 

 

Elegy 2

A dry leaf scuttles on its points.
Clouds sag with sheets of forgotten light.
A walnut unlocks from a twig.

The dead woman could finish sentences for me,
but one tuneless chord of wind
meditates on silence.

Breath searches the poplars.
Undersides of leaves glint like signals.
A speechless desire brushes past.

About James Owens

James Owens's most recent collection of poems is Mortalia (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poems, stories, and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Adirondack Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Honest Ulsterman, and Southword. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.

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