by Richard Weaver
WINTER UNDER FROZEN STARS
THE LUNG IS DRAINING WELL, the Doctor says
during my lunch; at least he has hope.
But most mornings I sit in this bed
tired of my little stories like birds bred in cages.
And still the cough comes like a false dawn.
The afternoon train has left for Paris,
taking the Doctor back to his wife.
Blind as any moon, there was nothing
reassuring in his smile, or in the warm fist
that tapped the hollow of my chest.
The sun is a bright red balloon
passing outside my window today. A small boy
holds it, terrified
it might carry him off.
His mother scolds and pulls him
from my vision. They are as far away
as last week or the week before
when I had fresh fruit, and waited for your letter,
thinking at the time
perhaps I’d reach you before now.
It was foolish to think. The day hot, and red
dust settling on the tables. Somehow
the weather seemed responsible
for my being here without you.
You would have found it quaint.
The waiter dressed in black. His skin
shone like copper with the light.
His eyes were what most intrigued me.
When he brought me a china finger-bowl
painted with white jonquils
it was as if he meant to tell me
not to hate God for the blood I’ve spat.
I was helpless in that widening silence.
Do you remember our last garden?
All greens and gold, the spears of lavender,
strawberries pale before the frost?
And the dragonflies when a mist settled
on their wings! Sometimes you’d brush
your hand through the apple-mint
and then spread your fingers
to comb the scent through my hair.
I’m sure sparrows have eaten all the figs.
I see them now in this
salmon-colored dusk, pecking the soft green
husks for the secrets kept inside.
Their wings smartly folded,
their heads swivel at right angles to the veranda
where a cat sits, eyes closed,
reflectively licking a paw.
Isn’t that the way it happens?
One minute alive. And in the next
someone wears a garland of your feathers
in his mouth.
Sometimes I want to throw these letters
into the fireplace, and watch
as the gray-white ashes rise, stumbling
into the air like a gorged sparrow.
Tonight, my body is a bottomless well
into which I drop all hope.
The long winter has numbed everything:
the books you sent, the doctor’s promise
I’d recover enough to be with you. Everything
except the fever that burns
its sulfur in my chest. Last night
by the fire, I watched and listened
as rain and wind rushed over
the chimney’s mouth, making a hoarse sound
until the room itself answered.
I could hear it saying,
I freeze, I burn. Over and over.
Is this what I wait for?
Visits from a voice that might be
yours or mine, but isn’t?
What I fear most is near at hand.
The red song in my throat
longing to escape.
RICHARD WEAVER lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank and acts as the archivist at-large for a Jesuit college. During the winter months, he acts as an unofficial snowflake counter for the weather bureau. His book, The Stars Undone, was published by Duende Press. Four poems later became the libretto for a symphony, Of Sea and Stars, composed by Eric Ewazen of Juilliard. The symphony has been performed four times to date. His work has been published in Conjunctions, Crack the Spine, Gingerbread House, Magnolia Review, Quiddity, and elsewhere.