from Fearful Symmetry

January 17, 1874
Eng’s house, Surry Co., NC.
Seated by the parlor fireplace.


I feel the night breaking
beneath frost.
           Even the moon  
is a frozen hook
in the sky. A spike
of icicle inside
my lungs

breathing in
winter’s bitter air,
how its sweetened burn stings
like a swallow of whiskey.








Though flame and shadow
mask your face


I know.
A messenger
between seas,
this isthmus
between us.


I strike a match to wake you,
but in our armchair you’ve finally begun
to doze.

I bury
leaves of tobacco
in my pipe’s clay bowl;


I smoke
and try not to witness
the shipwreck of your face.

Originally published in Denver Quarterly