Poetry | December 01, 2003
Poetry Feature: Catherine MacCarthy
Featuring the poems:
- The Freedom of the City [This poem was featured as Poem of the Week for 10/28/2008]
- Island of Miracles
(for Roger and Siobhan)
My father’s hands
scatter grain, freckled,
giant, as I stumble after him
watching his palms
cast from a jute sack
this way and that as if
he’s performing a rite.
And what I wonder about is
how he measures out
the ground and how he knows
how thick and fast to plant
as he paces forward
and where exactly it lands?
The Bible warns against stones.
What about the birds
already having a feast
as they flock and lift
treating our harrowed space
as if it were Christmas?
He’s unconcerned about stones
and it’s important to cater
for the birds. They’ll soon
have enough. As for the seeds
I watch them sprout
delicate ribby greens
against the rainy earth
and rise over months to a deep
aquamarine that glistens
and runnels under the breeze.
Avid to catch the split
second the colours change
I play hide and seek
vanish and appear,
eye to eye with ripening grain
stilled by a tide shifting
the field and close my eyes
to listen as the harvest
In the house next door are two small boys.
They throw Beanie Babies across the fence
and shout their names and call for someone
to throw them back. I sit quiet with a book
pretending not to exist as animals rain
but they have climbed onto a ledge and spied
a patch of dress through the lattice and red
roses that bloom all round a gap in the hedge.
Already there are lions, elephants, penguins,
and several species of reptile looking sad.
“Here’s Amber,” they holler undeterred.
A striped cat lands at my feet.
Two pairs of brown eyes observe.
“Would you like to keep him?” They smile
as I pick up the cat. Amber is soft, enough
to take me off guard. More Beanies shower
the fence. The boys are yelling and it’s time
for bed but from their incessant voices,
I can hear that exhaustion is a deluge
flooding the land, their parents are already
drowned and I am beginning to understand
what Noah in the ark must have felt:
I am their only chance and my garden
is the last high island left.
The Freedom of the City
He slips out the back gate
with a young woman,
fair hair, pouting lips
and long ethnic skirts,
an old man with keys in his hand,
his bald head turned
to check the lie of the land,
that one backward glance
cautious as the bushy-tailed
red fox whose eyes met mine
in our garden after rain
one November afternoon
in a deluge of green
between leaf fall and sunshine
before he turned to light again
high on the boundary wall.
Island of Miracles
Forty degrees. Not a soul on the beach.
I began to dream of rain
as we lay in our shuttered room,
blood growing thin,
of standing out in a field
drenched to the skin,
drinking as it poured down,
of falling to my knees before the heavens.
We sped north and east,
the hot wind from Africa burning our heels,
rose with the road, with our fear,
the breath of an angry god
through mountains above a ravine
round Kera Pass,
you could no longer steer
and our bike was a trembling reed.
I turned my face from the precipice
as you steadied the wheel
in that land of the mother goddess,
and drove at full throttle.
I could feel our lives in our hands,
then mercy of the elements
as we flew to the plain
of a thousand springs
where the gale ceased
by the cave of baby Zeus,
and we glimpsed the shadow
of an eagle floating downstream
If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.
Want to read more?Subscribe Today
SEE THE ISSUE
Editor's Prize Winner
Jun 02 2021
Poems: Chelsea B. DesAutels
Maybe You Need to Write a Poem About Mercy after Robert Hass Start this one with the woman standing at the edge of the woods. Or the desert, it
Jun 02 2021
Poems: Brandi Nicole Martin
No Market for Unfixable Suffering So I watercolor my skin graft and thereby beautify its hue, reframe so I was never “crushed under” or “burned by car muffler” but
Jun 02 2021
Poems: Jane Satterfield
Costumery: Cento with Lines from Early Reviews of Wuthering Heights Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë posed as Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell to publish their work and be taken seriously