The Miles Before Sleep
inspired by the title of a Martin Willitts Jr. poem
Country singers say they go by truck wheels,
rubber tumbling, lost in Patsy Cline,
and poets, with debated metaphor, and rhyme,
get lost in snow and near forget their horse.
The rest of us walk crosswalks, train tracks, asphalt
between the lot and daycare, food store, work.
Unlike the lyrics, sneakers leave no footprint,
except on melting days we’d just as soon forget,
indeed all roads are laid with just that goal:
to go on without notice of the ones
who go on them, whose tread, tires or tired
feet the only thing which keeps the count:
miles to go before I sleep
recorded one by one in bones, in cracks,
invisible—and numberless as breath.
by Mary Alexandra Agner.
Editor’s note: This poem’s use of image and metaphor are not the only technical delicacies—there is the nod to two different poets, and the perfect use of rhyme in the third line (to emphasize the line’s meaning to the reader).
The Harvest I Desire
The orchard’s empty, though the rain has stopped.
Out here among the Jonagolds, Macouns,
a thousand thousand names for fruit,
we are alone.
At first I thought you’d dropped
the apple, bitten to the white,
in favor of those trapped at ladder-height.
Instead, you need two hands to hold mine tight.
You kiss me with such urgency
I know that from this tree
I too can take the harvest I desire.
You push me up against the bark
so its tough fingers scar
my back, the ache as tree leans down on me
as we lean into it will leave its mark
in nine month’s time.
. . . . . . . .I know my ancestors—
the wicked stepmother still plots and Eve
has seen this fall before—
but to me an apple is an apple:
core, seeds, blossoms the wind will scatter far,
and cider made to ward off year-end chill.
I have plucked a child from the stillness
of dying leaves. I shall exult
and set the wet autumnal sky afire.
by Mary Alexandra Agner, first published in The Doors of the Body.
Editor’s note: Rhyme and iambic meter make this poem immediately appealing, yet this poem is more than mere sonics. It details love and birth via allegory: the life cycle of an apple tree from blossom to faded leaves.