In Season
    Jim Schley

    1. Vigil: New Year's Eve

Girlish still, in mildness and spark,
surviving in a skeleton
fragile as an armature of reeds.

The color in her cheeks
faint as watercolor wash
gracing impatiens in a vase.

Rubber-treaded soles and gurneys
should soften the shock
of arrivals, but she startled up

from the morphine,
eyes wide
upon acres of hours.

Muffled sounds enforced
a sense of quarantine — I will
never go home. The house

was sold — while
droplets condensed
on the murky sacs on IV racks.

As no family was near,
I sat with her from 10 to 6,
evening to sunrise.

They said, “Oxygen-starved,
she’s unlikely to eat.” She said
Now air is what I need

In the margins of a magazine
I transcribed what I heard:
so fitful in sleep

yet lifting to a rinsing lucidity
Does it frighten you to go
before you’ve understood?

Note the rise and fall,
every breath released
like a sigh. In advance,

our unspoken goodbye.
Pretty boat . . . What boat is this?
Now a row of faces. All so small.

Later when I had gone
they completed her chart.
Vacant johnny and wrist tag.

This was New Year’s Day.
Vague sun pressed through mist
thin as watered milk.

The first dawn in nearly a century
that finds her nowhere
on earth.

    2. Daughter

When she is older herself
with hair glazed white
and sagging a little

will she say of me
“He was well known,” “He was well-to-do ”
(not likely)

“He knew what he wanted . . . ”
“He was sometimes at loose ends . . . ,”
if I’m lucky,

“He baked our family’s bread” ?

    3. Bird Song

As doves do seem to moan,
as the amusing uplift of a warbler
       flutters into tune
and a grosbeak slides glissandos
through the ash tree’s come-lately buds

         pillow talk chez nous
         mating calls, chez eux
Smooth — you,
every part of you I touch
       with open hand,
thin fabric between
                      thee and me.

                      Alas, interrupted
(not this time by our child, who’s away),
we catapult from bed
           and run outside to shout away
                     a woodpecker
           hammering holes
beneath the eave.

Too late to go back to bed,
                      yet let’s stall briefly
before giving in
          to the day’s duress —

Could you call this couch
a love seat? Yes.

          So long beyond reach,
          by anxiety and exhaustion,
these strained nerves
          revive, intertwined:

What a jolly surprise
                      to coincide
with daybreak, accompanied
          in bird song.

    4. Wire

The child said
our line is empty, no
dial tone, no hum

though we’d spoken to you
over the river
not minutes ago,

laugh that thumped
a diaphragm beneath
the ear piece

as shuttled magnets
an electron stream

to approximate


With wind coming on hard
in the woods, thighs gashed
through pantlegs by berry wands

I follow the phone line
in its smooth black rind
looping without poles

over branch stubs or dragging
low through leaf wrack
a mile from the junction box,

touch disconnected leads
with electrodes on a multi-meter
set for ohms

seeking infinity
which I find; then
with the house side re-joined,

test for continuity

not found; then eventually see
the storm-split cherry tree
that severed the wire


Slice the cable sheath
unwrap those shining threads
in its core to re-entwine

long ago, the metal called Cyprian

a pair of filaments
thin as eye lash
yet miles in length

dug from slopes above town,
our old Elizabeth Mine’s yield
perpetually re-employed,
smelters to rollers to wire —
when pure, dazzling
in conductivity

through my fingers
the current resumes
low-voltage, textured

like velvet to an ear
at the far end,
and here we

hear the scrambling chime:
it’s you, voice
in the receiver

transfigured, complete.

    5. Autumn Equinox

The morning glories
knowing nothing,

but such a caprice,
this lavish clambering
toward — what?
Only sunlight.

For that they open, every day.

Believe me, the grief
I feel cannot be

In moonlight, broad
as the sprawled land we look across,
the blossoms are closed
like miniature umbrellas,
our clothes on the line colorless
yet bright beneath a round white
platter of mercury,

whatever takes place
in the world surrounding us,
where dear friends
will die.

These nights we hear transports
from the airbase upstate.
These days I hear fighter jets
going east
at ungodly speeds.

Autumn chill,
a stream of piss steams
in golden-gray thatch.

The morning glories are
— what colors?
“Blue as our girl’s eyes,” or bluer.
Tinted rose, as wishful thinking is said to be. Wrinkled slightly like crepe paper,
with white centers,

with avid green vines that climb
whatever we do,
defying all
the killing frost.

Jim Schley has worked as a writer and editor, teacher with adult students, and performer with several experimental theatre troupes on tours of the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He is the author of the poetry chapbook One Another (Chapiteau Press, 1999). His poem "Virginal: The Nativity Pageant" is featured in In Posse Review, Issue 14.

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