What No One Told Me About Autumn
__Why it boils over without apology. Why
lawns lining every home erupt
__in the night, fevered by some unnamable sorrow.
Why the sky hides so often, a blister
__I’ve fingered since childhood.
When it uses words like mercy
__and regret, I lose myself in the backyard
the way a match loses its grip on the dark.
__Here, between two pines, I might hear
what was once the gossip of sheets
__my mother snapped against a line,
father’s shirts pinned shoulder
__to shoulder, collars flared, buttons with nothing
to clutch. I think of the crickets who will later spark
__the air with their duplicitous refrain,
how I will follow them, barefoot,
__moss dusting my heels. And for what?
Tell me that if I look back now,
__I won’t see how each grief solders us
to the next: a house clapped shut,
__gagged, leaning into its hollowed bones.
Leaves, battered by wind, seized
__between the tines of an abandoned rake.
Their ceaseless falling. How they wait
__and wait to become tinder, then smoke,
then ash. How I cannot change it.
Fable For Boys Who Chase Tornadoes
Even from birth, it is said that sky bonds
_______with a certain kind of child. For instance, this one:
___his eyes like cellar doors sprung, each iris
a spiraling dervish. Bundled, his hair is the shade
of hysteria beneath a blanket’s scalloped hem — erratic, always escaping.
Think ash. Think vellum, or wool
raveling its dense skeins down his collar, curls
_______that will drag shoulders broadened
___by the eve of his thirteenth birthday.
Alone, he’ll cross lands flat as patchwork, drifting
_______east, the sun a spill of whiskey scorching his shadow
___against the earth. Over the years he will begin
to forget his mother, father, the debris
_______of their smiles as they waved goodbye,
___both arms buckled around the others’ waist.
He is left only to guess at the siblings
_______who may fill his place—a sister, all elbows
___and scraped knees locked around the siren
of a rusted gate, or twins, brothers
_______dirt-streaked and thundering through thickets
___of wisteria. In ritual, he still exists. Charms
strung at their throat, wrist.
_______For protection: clover bunched above windows,
___the splintered lip of a vacant door. Nights,
one small voice reaches for the others,
_______a leaf wavering across the room, Will the sky ever return
___him home? Can he find us on the map of his hand?
They fear the days blotted by clouds,
_______but know without a photograph this is all
___they have of him. Swab of cheek, shadow thick.
Lips a rippled cumulus splitting the horizon.
_______They hold hands, knuckles steepled, and recite hymns
___that tug at their throats like birds wrenching worms
free from an arid and unyielding
_______world. A world that trades prayers for magic,
___logic for spells.They have yet to know
that nothing is holier than the body, the atlas
_______of its undoing: skin, breath, bone. All of it dust
___blown into the pocket of a God they cannot touch.
(* What No One.. and Fable For.. was first published at the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund among the winning submissions of 2012. The pieces are included in Sassafras via a request from the editor.)
Edit: “What No One Told Me About Autumn” is also slated to appear in Best New Poets 2013 (winter).
Michael Boccardo’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Kestrel, Border Crossing, Weave, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Nimrod, as well as other journals. He is a multiple recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and a three-time Pushcart nominee. Also, he serves as editorial assistant for Cave Wall. He resides in High Point, NC, with his partner and three tuxedo cats.