Poetry at Sangam



DEVOTIONAL by Jim Schley

Now we live our life
        upon the marriage breadth —
stripped of outer bark,
sawed and planed lengthwise
        then jointed in dovetails, and
                confiding as never before
with body-sundering confidence;
                the sealed secrecy of youth
        opened wide
to leave any light glean
on its grain.


One, another. And we
                multiplied: how can this
        irreducible child
        with her speed and gaiety
be? Flesh and blood
                exponential in its blue-eyed force,
        a genetic bouquet.
A blur as she grows.

Overhearing overhead
        the ripple of steps upon floorboards
                as we rest arm in arm,
                sharing a chair.
Upstairs in the room where we made her,
                        she plays This Old Man with sticks
on lids from emptied jars.


        Hear one plea
when I say, let each of us three
                        live to be old.
Willingly at last would I
        place a faith in vacant air,
obediently strung to the buoyant invisible
                we stride beneath,
                        glad-footed trio of marionettes.


Because simply
        arranging our daughter’s bedclothes, with a tug
                on the linen releasing
perfume of perspiration and chamomile soap
                        will set off such trembling
                in dissolved morning light;
        then folding your clothes
just laundered, dried by the wood stove —

                        the sense of smell is ravenous
        as you know, for these
                        blessed scents of kin:
        the cotton jersey you work in,
                or stockings for nights of singing
                        translucent as fragrance,
jade dress and cream-colored blouse,
        mine to hold as I fold them.


        If I might be
so bold,
                if I may —
Give us these days.