Monday, December 17, 2007

"Rear View Mirror" by Joan Murray

I was going through some back issues of American Poetry Review and I came across this poem by Joan Murray. Thought I should post it before the magazine was lost to the recycling bin (I can't keep everything, as much as I would like to).

Rear View Mirror

If you'd seen her there, trying to rise, you'd understand
why I didn't make a sound. If you'd seen how many times
her spindly forelegs dug themselves forward, trying to
lift the stone cart of herself off her yearling flanks-
if you'd watched her head toss left and right,
searching for instructions from any corner-
if you'd seen how she finally broke through
the cowl of her pain and pulled
herself upright, you'd know
why I sat there paralyzed.

Then you'd have seen how she was denied the heady
moment given to any flimsy fawn who makes it to its feet-
how she couldn't pause a second to feel gravity
pull away from her hooves and slink back in the earth.
And you'd have stayed there with her too,
hanging onto the wheel like an exhausted god
till she tossed her death on the heap of her shadow
and hauled herself to the woods,
one leg scratching jaggedly behind her
like a lie on a lie-detector test
until she disappeared.

Only then would you have pulled apart your harness
and stepped out and seen the smashed side mirror
pressed flush against the window where your shoulder
had just been. Only then would you have
touched the caved-in door that held the
sudden wave-like thud of her wriggling spine.
Only then, Demeter-like, would you have
brushed the tufts of fur, still stuck in the
rear window gasket-and probed
a finger through the wet grassy smear
that her flailing hoof had left there.

Only then would you have figured out the strength
to go after her into the dark place where she'd gone-
to search for her and keep searching-
just the way you'd have done if you'd come to
in a dark room after labor, and found no one there,
not a cry, not a sound-like that time-
when I slid down on a sheet below a mirror-
so I couldn't see my daughter come or go.
But this time, with the cars rushing by,
I watched in the mirror. I watched.
And I saw where she'd gone.
And I followed her in.

(Joan Murray, from The American Poetry Review, September/October 2006).

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