And a Winter Evening Azrael’s Shadow Darkens the Garden

by Frank Stewart

The volcanic smoke shoulders in and lingers, turning the daylight
gray as blighted fruit, the night starless as a stone. Muffled sounds ruin
themselves
in the swales and a chainsaw drones all the next day. Thought needs light,
like lancing, you decide. Then turn again until dusk to fixing broken
fence,
splicing barbed wire brittle with rust—broken and pronged as matted
fishhooks
in high grass, this mindless tackle of a harried farmer, or the harsh,
snapped-off phrases
of someone who renounces love. In the guava thicket beyond the second
fence,
you’ve discovered the deflated flesh and leathery glue of a fallen steer,
the wrecked carcass broken, and already turning into stench and bright
kikuyu.
What was soft hardens, and what was firm flows like sap or dries to chalk.
Above you
the loquat are in full gold, a wild rose tangled in this one, nodding,
nodding.
You are amazed at how tirelessly it all contrives without anyone’s
consent,
though more doggedly without the blue ignition of the cloudless autumn
sun.
Tonight it rains. There are still neither instructions nor fictions in the
garden,
no eclipse to draw your thought together in a symbol. I believe in
everything
that has never been said before, wrote Rilke. If there is to be no guest, then
let it be a divine one who refuses to knock. And let him fill up this void
with the real
and the present, even if it’s darkness, the inconsolable goats calling, the
lava
in a fever to reach the rough ciborium of the bay, the wild, coral-
spanceled                   sea.

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