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At the peak of my powers I felt a falling-off,
as if an internal organ had come loose from its moorings
and was bobbing gently against my pelvis like a pear.
The season was autumn. Threads of smoke
unwound from the chimneys. Every compass pointed
I walked out, in the dim afternoon, into the small streets,
through a modest wood, across a vast graveyard.
I read the headstones—
here, the woman recalled only as Mother,
here, Our Darling Ralph, his tiny stone tarnished with lichen.
My way was littered with parthenons and obelisks,
with strange marble tables and mossy
arks of the covenant, and among them
bulldogs rolled in wet pine needles, helmeted tots
wobbled on training wheels, and I,
no longer at the peak of my powers,
turned my ankle on a pebble and limped.
But when I came to the bottom of the hill,
into that clutter of merchant mausoleums
known as the Valley of the Kings,
I paused in my limping and looked up
into the watery leaf-light: pale gold, speckles of black,
thinned remnants of last night’s gale.
And I felt, for no reason at all, sweetened.
Around me, the stony edited lives—
born, married, fathered, earned, died—
seemed to swell into ballads.
Carved lions kneaded their claws,
and lost at sea was a cadence.
I was a poet, and I wanted to sing
of small Ralph, alive and perched on his father’s
broadcloth knee, in the November twilight, after the banks
had bolted their doors and the barges had docked.
Now a scatter of gulls sailed over the cove,
and Mother sat alone at her rosewood desk and wrote
Sky. Leaf. Light.
I wanted to sing that. And so I did.
Copyright 2019 Dawn Potter