One rode horses. The other danced. Their house
sat cool under sycamores. When they fought,
they raged, and when done, done. Their mother mourned
their father, as they did, but laughter made
grief music, his absence palpable and sweet.
One hummed as the day’s one cool breeze bellied
the screen, a muslin dress hiked above her waist.
The other retched into a milk-glass bowl
as a friend massaged her neck and told
how yoga or acupuncture could help.
A guest might point to clouds ridged and rain-black
as those that made his London hostel stay
a run from doorway to miserable
doorway—no, ridged as a rug a kid
has slid down Grandmother’s dust-mopped hallway.
He lies panting, sore, then up, run, slide
till she yells Stop it! He lies hungry, glad,
her handiwork bunched round his feet. Ridges
like that. What do they think? One scrubs the sink.
The other says We need rain. Mother says
Matthew’s coming. How about chicken
on the grill? Bees go where bees go.
Swallows plunge and shrill over the lawn.
By the time Matthew and the kids stand soaked
on the porch, they’ve spread the food, bunched lilacs
in green-glass vases, ridden, cooled, curried
and nuzzled Desiree, the boarded mare.
They eat their usual meal of wine, meat
and contradiction. Fall for the dancer
as she fingers the mole on her neck or leans
her head back to yawn or executes one
of her innumerable stretches. Fall
for the honey and gravel in the other’s
every syllable, forgetting
for a long time how love takes a whole heart
and the will to sit in the dark without
hope while things work out, or not.
Lilacs drop petals on the table
Luke made Sarah the week before he died.
To an Enemy Now Dead
No matter how much you loved baseball, how much your grandchildren
adored your every smile & syllable, no matter the five milligrams
of social justice you sprinkled on the scale, the dissertations
inconceivable without your wisdom, the wife you worshipped
& tended & grieved, the agony you endured, the drugs that eased it,
the thoughts you could no longer form, the breath you could no longer draw,
I’d still, if I could go back thirty years, tear out with my teeth
the elbow you buried in my kidney as I missed another pretty layup,
grind your face into the asphalt & pour into your hairy ear
misery’s hot gasoline, pour till both you & the coward
who has always limped off the court gumming the pabulum
of peace & love were dead.
John Repp’s most recent collection of poetry is Fat Jersey Blues, winner of the 2013 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press.