Poetry | December 01, 2009

Featuring the poems:

 

Provinces

Moonglow projections on a screen reveal

A drunken row of huts.

It’s difficult to tell if those are goats

Or just emaciated cows

Grazing at weeds among some haycarts.

It is a chiseled, godforsaken place.

Unmapped. Ambiguous. Potato-beige.

Nothing glints. Nothing sparkles.

Not one thing nourishes the eye.

But lately, on the hamlet’s western edge,

There have been strange movements-

Convoys of trucks arriving after dark.

The construction of a generator shed.

An ever-slight increase

In local population.

To get there would require,

For one of these distinguished, graying men,

Light packing and a taxi ride,

The shuttle up to JFK,

A change of flights in Frankfurt, then

Another eighteen hours over land.

Ice paddles in a water-filled carafe.

Someone has brought in pastries on a tray.

A pewter, blue light bathes

This undersecretary and his staff

Who must consider what it means

Now that reliable informants say

The silo and the splintered barn conceal

A weapons cache and drums of surplus fuel.

Within three days the village well,

That laundry drying on the line,

The smokehouse and the school

Will lie in calculated heaps

Of bloody rags and planks, while you or I

Watch college football on TV,

Or bitch that it’s been weeks

Since we’ve had any decent rain.

It’s true. The purples and magentas drain

From our hydrangeas, and the lawn

Is August-straw and parched.

Our fig trees and magnolias weep

From nearly seven years of drought.

Each night we track the surging cost

Of gasoline, the market’s steep,

Inconceivable decline.

The polar ice caps melt.

The sea’s green waters warm and rise.

It is a dull, protracted age

Of worry, ambiguity, and doubt,

And yet the neighbor boys play otherwise

Who, armed with plastic M-16s, patrol

The pruned, bird-busy hedges where

Three others twitter, shush themselves, and wait.

Crouching like fedayeen,

They rest their rifle barrels on a gate,

And when they open fire

Their girlish laughter nearly drowns

The clack-clack-clacking of their guns.

But there are also other sounds:

Wind chimes. A hammer somewhere whacking nails.

The sighing of a passing car.

Our small tomato garden goes to seed.

Reading her magazine, my wife enjoys

The tender blessings of the evening sun,

And everything seems kissed

With coral, gold, and lime.

Thank god, I sometimes think though never say,

That this is where we are.

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.

SEE THE ISSUE

SUGGESTED CONTENT