1. Tonight

The familiar bed prodded her
Tired limbs. Tonight was no different

Reading poetry in inadequate light.
Though the lines consoled, they tore
Her heart. Ritualized grief it was,
Taller than her life. Like the bedclothes,
Words that tangled, heavy as a weapon.

She cracked the spine of the book
By long habit, folding down a wide corner
Of the aching page. Sleep composed itself
Like the words still
Printed on her lips.

2. Lamps

Snow came in through the grille
And hissed on the burning lamps.
The smoke of it hung in the air
Like a sea with strange tides.
Then the scrape of a shoe sounded
And a door closed. Silence.
In the space between burning lamps
A ruddy light casting on the snow.

3. The Word

Low cloud and soaked air
Saturate her mind.

Time drizzles, as the
Sky utters more water

Clattering at the panes,
Rain leaving an earthy smell
Like leaf mould. Or gigantic moss.

When her finger touches the glass
It comes away wet.

Her eyes are
Two black patches
Drained of light.

The word she has written
Made of water
Runs like a burst vein
On the glass.

4. The Woman

With the thought of her
He created.
He chiselled long lines,
The hollow of her cheek,
Her wides dark eyes that could be
Brooding. They were being born,
From the concentration of his knuckled fingers.

By the time her shoulders came,
His cutter’s hands had clasped
His heart hit his ribs hard
As she looked up and breathed,
Deep from her smooth young body.

5. Firelight

Light and shadows move over the windows.
She brings a poker from the fire grate
And jabs at the sullen clinkers
Till they spit with anger.

When they begin to cackle,
She measures out her life
In their small red light.

In the glow from the coals
The past wells from her eyes

And settles its fine grief
Over the scattered black furniture.

6. Elegy

Hear the hiss of the logs
The blue flames of fire in the grate

Possess a house that hasn’t spoken
Since she died.

If her voice hangs to the dusty drapes
Or the seats are still weighted
With the eccentric arrangement of her bones
That is proper.

I shall take her chair
When the house booms louder than the sea

Feeling her maternal grandeur
Rise out of the wood beams,
Exact and intimate.

7. Vigil

Steadily the wind rose.
High leaves hissed.
Great boughs creaked with rage.
My candles wavered, casting wild spectres
Till a gust seized them.

So I sat in the dark, with the wrath
Of the wind

Feeling all night
A branch thrashing the panes.

When black became gunmetal grey
And light dripped into the room,

The wind was a low raucous breathing,
Assuaged now, almost dead. I knelt,
And relit the candles.
They glowed in the quiet throat
Of the storm.

Robert James Berry

If you've any comments on this poem, Robert James Berry would be pleased to hear from you.