Saturday Poem


“Questioned about why she had beaten her spastic child to death, the mother
told police, “I hit him because he kept falling off his crutches.’ “
—News Item

Because one’s husband is different from one’s self,
the pilot’s last words were. “Help, my God, I’m shot!”
Because the tip growth on a pine looks like Christmas tree
….. candles,
cracks appear in the plaster of old houses.

And because the man next door likes to play golf,
a war started up in some country where it is hot,
and whenever a maid waits at the bus stop with her
….. bundles,
the fear of death comes over us in vacant places.

It is all foreseen in the glassy eye on the shelf,
woven in the web of notes that sprays from a trumpet,
announced by a salvo a crackles when the fire kindles,
printed on the nature of things when a skin bruises.

And there’s never enough surprise at the killer in the self,
nor enough difference between the shooter and the shot,
nor enough melting down of stubs to make new candles
as the earth rolls over, inverting billions of houses.

by Mona Van Duyn
Strong Measures
Harper Collins, 1986