"People need faith. Beliefs change, like fashions, with each season ..." 


Ms. Cherry

Nancy Cherry

The Shape of its Leaving

A hat full of light sat on our bed.
No one knows who put it there.
No one knows who took it away
or if it put flowers to shame while it waited.

For years I did not think I could live with the hat 
emptied of everything: no forehead
beneath its brim, no eyes, no thoughts, only
morning leaking from somewhere deep in the crown.

Once I was tempted to touch the hat,
its felt, a green band that accented
the night. Sometimes I could hear it breathing
while light shot out like piano chords.
No one replaced the strings that broke
beneath the beat of hammers.
The hat sat on the bed and was ignored.

And the light never changed.
It did not pulse. It did not reflect.
It did not turn on us in the bedroom
but went up and up as the hat rested
closer to the foot of the bed
than to the pillows. 

No one knows when the hat went away,
if it went out of style, if it was stolen 
or if someone, one of the two of us,
who lived alone in the house with the hat
put it away like an artifact of no value that sends
signals to the ceiling and gets no answer.

Even now I forget the shape of its leaving,
fedora, sombrero, bowler, something
that can cup blood without letting it
smear the sheets. Sometimes I walk
down the close streets, ones that run
down the bias of town and something
hooks my eye, a feather, fingernail, petal
and I turn toward the slim edge
but it is nothing. It is never the hat.

No one knows who took the hat away.
No one knows how to get it back.
It must have walked out in daylight
wrapped in sun like a towel 

about its waist while a key
dropped down my throat.

For years I prayed into the well of our hat
thinking it might edge a little higher
up the quilt, send the stark rays into our hearts
or make lettuce grow. But nothing changed
as the walls bent with the weight of night
and the ceiling cracked.

If you saw the hat now, would you know what hat
I am talking about? Not the hat your grandfather wore
with its grey days; not the hat my father wore
with its sweat of oak. Not the hat of walking
or the hat of age, but the last hat on the bed
tipped up, leaking the oil of everyday, sweet lemon
and olive light that you carried into the shower,
that I carried into breakfast, that we carried into bed.
But we never discussed the hat.

There are a thousand flowers in my life now and birds
that open like small boxes of polished mahogany.
There is a keyhole in each breast. There is nothing inside.
For years, a hat full of light sat on our bed,
a queen-sized bed with matching sheets,
four pillows and a fire in each one.

I lean on the bed and listen to the rustle
of birds deep in the mattress.
They are coming unwound and I name them:
mocking bird, mourning dove, sparrow.
I hear their muffled calls as the seams bulge.

In the bedroom, someone has taken the ceiling off.
No one knows who did this.
No one even knows if there was a house
built on the diagonal, if there was a hat
on our bed that could open like a bird,
broken and cat-weary. You pick up the phone
nearly every day now, dial my number
and whisper hat, hat, hat.

The Hammer

There is a hammer lying on the floor of my bedroom.
I want to pick it up but I don't pick it up because
this would be a digression.

If I pick up the hammer,
it will leave an impression, hammer-shaped, in the rug because
it is heavy and has lain there all night.
It will look as if the hammer is still there
even after I have walked out of the room and put it
away in the toolbox.

The carpet will not let go of its hammer-shape; it is not grass
that will gradually lift itself after a night of heavy sleep.
It will only stand up if I run my fingers through the fibers
or vacuum; and if I vacuum, I will not stop
with the foot-square shape of hammer, but will run through the house vacuuming carpets and no one will remember
there was a hammer.

Last night I brought the hammer into the bedroom
to unstick the window swollen with winter
because I was beginning to suffocate as the barometer dropped toward rain.

Even now, though I am in the kitchen and it is raining at last,
I am thinking about the hammer and what it is doing alone
in the bedroom pressing carpet fibers to the floor.
It presses silently and does not move in any direction
except down. It does not inch toward home but plows
through my thoughts with the claw end made for prying
and getting things unstuck

and what will I discover inside but another toolbox
full of anxious hardware: the screwdrivers, the pliers and wirecutters and an empty space at the back
for the hammer.