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In unvarnished foreground, a cat
offers his paw in a dingy splint
to children who bend over it,
one in a red, zipped-up jacket
so the whole scene is drawn
away from the fields, the church
where someone’s arranging flowers
in deep, dented vases (we can’t see
any of this but her parked car, a Buick).
An unlocal train whips past,
running, for the sake of trembling
windows and clothes stiffening
their lines, on parallel track.
Someone arrives with a tractor
to mow the long grass. Someone appears
at the door with a sackful of beans.
By now the children have either gone in
for their baths or a sly breeze
from next door carried them off
when someone plunging iris into water
and singing let all her sorrow
slide out through her mouth.


Praise to the scratch of the past
on the future, praise to the vegetables
someone’s blanching for dinner:
pale green wafts back from the stove
toward a car which has toppled
to its side in ditchwater,
one wheel scraping air.
The boy’s jacket will be ferried
first to the hospital, then to the church.
Praise to the town, population four hundred.
Praise to the hour the glass factory let out.
Praise to the torch of orange cat
streaking through this scene with a gift
he won’t drop—a bird? a gray stone?
and to the house, well built
from this angle but too far
from the road, where a back porch
washing machine chugs out the last
clean shirts of the day, the ones
we are wearing when the train,
which could be going anywhere,
shrieks and won’t stop.

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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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