As to the question of when / It’s that moment of being

Photo by Alice Birkin

by Eileen Hennessy

As to the question of when

things took a turn: Maybe that summer
when I was edgy, the luminous
nights went cobalt blue,
the caterpillars stripped the trees
of every leaf, leaving me to count
the branch-shadows trembling
in the crabgrass yard. Since then,

closer every day, the horizon advances
slow and steady across the weedy ground.
An old woman in a dirty satin shift,
I slip a disc into the player,
dance to the rattle of castanets,
the clatter of bones. The insects
go on singing in the weeds.


It’s that moment of being

shaken awake, thrown out of bed,
the moment when our body
hits the quaking floor,
we’re rocked backward, forward,
side to side, to the sound
of plaster breaking away
from walls and ceiling, a roar
like a voice out of a chasm
just opened somewhere farnear.
Hourminutes pass,

the floor steadies, we get up,
flashlights, the stairs, cracks
in the walls, carpet glittering
with smashed windowpane glass,
chairs and mattresses dragged
outside to the trembling lawn.
Minutehours pass,

the east turns pink, the ordinary
birds call, the sun rises,
climbs into the ordinary sky.
We count the minutes
between aftershocks, take bets
on how many hours days weeks months
before the quaking subsides,

how many more before the cracks widen,
the doors and windows vanish,
the rain blows in,
an uncommon light shines in our faces
as we stumble alone down the stairs,
take our last look at the ruin,
while outside
the birds sing in the usual sky,
the usual world stands
firm, warm, still in the game.

Category: Poetry