Three Poems

by Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Stubbornly Green

              for Susan

Driving back to my blue mountains,
I am less than ever at home.
Another bomb blast in Iraq—
46 dead, 90 wounded—refuses
to recede to background noise.
I turn the radio off.

When I was younger, the future
was all pulse and promise,
but middle-age doesn’t offer
many bluffs.
                    I suppose I believed
in something like progress, ascent,
however gradual, like this ribbon of road
from Lenoir to Blowing Rock,
the way I hardly notice I’ve risen
from the piedmont hills
until sheer rock face on the right side
and a sharp drop to streams on the left
reminds me.
                    It’s we humans
who love the straight line, want
to be spared the looped intercessions
of mourning and grief, even though
all around us--the whorl of seasons,
day and night at each others heels.

I’m not retreating to theories of inevitable war,
but I know the dead have to be mourned.
If we’re going anywhere at all
surely it’s nowhere we know,
the route more like a good conversation,
all give and take, not the hard drive
of the rock and roll beat
our soldiers play during battle.

Now even this road I’m on winds—
an engineer deciding years ago I suppose
not to blast through solid rock.
I wend past rhododendron and mountain laurel,
stubbornly green through each long winter.
Spring takes its time here—
we’ll be weeks behind your azaleas.
Like my saying what you already know,
I’ve grown accustomed to late blooming.

Out of the Garden, 1

When the Puccini aria soars
from the porch into the summer
garden where I bend over
the gold-centered leaves of euonymus,
and mounded veronica

it is not only Bocelli cording
his heart to Che gelida manina
in this bask of afternoon light
as the hummingbird blurs
past the long neck of the rose;

it is also the music you played
the night she walked in at dusk,
hair streaming, her face a fresh puzzle
of doubt and desire, Etava ella, fragrante,
me cadea fra le braccia.

I spade compost, plant the Black Knight
Buddleia. Can the innocent know
what they have not lost? Already
a pale butterfly finds the dark bloom.

Out of the Garden, 2

Nothing is sure. When we plant roses,
beetles arrive, burrow

in the blooms,
strip leaves skeletal.

We tap dozens into soapy bowls,
but they return as if from afterlives,

copper-winged, iridescent,
famished and over-sexed.

There is always another hunger,
another living desire wanting

what we thought we possessed,
improvident with need and driven

to devour every succulent leaf.
How shall we share ourselves

with this world? What can we give?
What can we keep?