Liam Buries His Wife“Crana ne killa,” he says, soil of the grave.
When she died there was no sound of gravediggers—
no clink of spade against rock, turning wormy earth
toward heaven—just a backhoe taking the muscle
of romance from that back-toiling act: digging.
“In Ireland, it was different,” he says. There,
a man in the family, a neighbor, maybe, or even
a husband could lift the shovel and bear down
on impossible clay, dig out a space for her
not far from the living.
Then they’d set the stone; grief was clean.
But here, the letters of her name “were not cut deep,
and lichen fingers will knock them out.” The letters
of her name keep saying themselves to him,
like an invitation: Come close, lie down.
The Gone NightIn earliest days when sleep is best and any
black-rearing mare can be hoisted away
by the flick of a parent’s light switch or a kiss
and simple tuck-in, that’s when sleep sweeps
over the child and away, drifting through night.
Every hour lengthens its curtains till day chimes
dawn out of dark, and impertinent birds whistle…
“Sweetie, hey, sweetie” and “Chickadee-dee,”
their calls floating through the large house, above dark
disguises of chairs, tables, and the piano waiting
for lessons, as it shifts and adjusts, casually becoming
itself without asking. All this the dog by the door allows,
his muzzle twitching and slow legs trembling through
the thick pond of sleep. Soon, breakfast spills milk
to the bowl, and flakes fall wafting away. Berries
clutter bowls of their own, and since brooms cannot
sweep alone, the parents start brisking away the gone night,
tidying the children’s beliefs, their lunches of dinosaur wings,
plums, peaches and things. Elf laughter quiets in closets
of silly clothes, grows silent as the children step
onto the walk—the youngest with flashing toes. It is then
that the stolid house waits for the soft little beings’ return
through the long stretch of kindergarten mornings that fold
and fold again—an accordion of days squeezing like breath
at sending its music away.
Copyright © 2014 Patricia Gray
Patricia Gray lives and works on Capitol Hill, where she formerly headed the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. Her collection, Rupture, was published by Red Hen Press. Her poems have been short-listed for the Ann Stanford National Poetry Prize and the New Millennium Poetry Prize. Other poems have appeared in Ekphrasis, Best of Potomac Review, Poetry International, Poetry East, The MacGuffin, Shenandoah, and in numerous magazines and anthologies. She was awarded a grant to attend Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in 2002 and attended again as a participant in 2006. Her MFA in creative writing is from the University of Virginia, where she won the Academy of American Poets award.