Winter 2011

Table of Contents - Vol. VII, No. 4


Poetry    Fiction    Translations    Reviews   

Shelby Stephenson



“O Death, if they ask about you, what shall I say”

O Death, if they ask about you, what shall I say?
Reigning over The Fallen in the fields, on the decks of ships out in the water,
And those who just quit breathing.

Who shall sing the Song?
Give me the roses while I live.
Let them climb the rail among blackberry blossoms
And squash with yellow blooms, crooked necks, stalks and horns bellowing YIELD

For the dying soldiers
And farmers and housewives and husbands
And the beauty of seasons, the long, hot summers,
Indian summers, with in-between focuses
Every window charms and surprises.

As fall gives way to ice and snow my mother gets out the bowl for snow-cream.
The spoon scrapes the bottom before you know it
Cold winter has passed
Warm breezes are blowing
And spring’s here at last

There she stands and I begin to see the meaning of being here,
Aware of trammel and flights, bees buzzing petunias,
Ants crawling down the hummer’s line,
The juice bubbling back toward the top for the ruby-throat,
The tractors ready in the sheds.

Thou graveyards on the little knolls, mounds tended by hands or wildflowers,
Somewhere between broken hearts and a window right before sunup,

Thou wheat and tobacco fields, corn and cotton,
There’s a song my mother used to sing, “Will You Love Me When I Am Old?”

Yesterday’s paths lead to cabins, the children in bed and clothed with kisses,
The lamplight knocking shadows the wind etches

For the non-vets, the “we”
And the pacifists, activists, too.
He was my great-grandfather; she was my great-grandmother.

Let suggestion of wars wrest right from wrong.
Set woods on fire in a chorus for the slaves.
Without ceasing let them love with a love no master can stop.
Bring on violins for the long corridor, end-notes.
Unlock windows.
Open the doors.
Unloosen the shutters.


© Shelby Stephenson


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