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Poem: "Winter Morning Montclair" 

A tree breaks the field in half, as though
memory, too violent for dream, falls into dawn.
The grass itself is peaceful: Wood shavings
scattered across a frozen surface;
here and there, reeds summon deep water,
in ways that lovers recall mistakes.
In this museum, time, like water, is distilled.
Elsewhere, children hug tanks.

I, too, can freeze, become the oak’s striated skin.
I can stand here forever, transfixed.
But then—the figure of the grandmother, her back turned,
quietly sweeping light.

All she holds are branches, yet what she gathers
is ice. There has been
a near-hurricane in my county, and I imagine
a survivor on her porch, making quilts of days
against a sunken roof.
Hands move over the blood’s quiet hum.

I want to ask the woman in the painting who she is.
Why, with shoulders stooped, does she refuse
to turn around? What is her sorrow, and how cold?
Does she know that in Haiti, a mother trapped
beneath concrete tells her husband she will love him,
always?

She will not talk to us.
The winters, the wars, the impossibly slow mornings.
What else, after all
is there to say?

Speaking of...

  • Poetry is edited by Philip Levine.

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