Joseph Bathanti


The moon leavens.
Clumps of petrified potash gleam

like fists in the furrow corrugation.
Gymnosperm spills in the couch grass.

Cropheld and fallow there is more
beneath the sole than upturned by the harrow.

The one pact is earth, its boil and pitch.
Rest against it. Be snatched away.

Listen for fire gouting in the hearths
and tapers of the underhouses,

the Purgatorians chanting Evensong
and spinning dust singlets for their children

seining the Smoke River for bonefish.
Down there the tallow’s blue

from the everburn of igneous.
The sky is parchment, the roof you walk upon.

Each dawn, a heart-shaped sun sets it smoldering.
Perhaps the dirt is simply what the field hordes

its grief in, and we must turn away,
ride with all speed from the grave.

But stay the fields, spread your oilskin;
it’s all under there:

arrowheads and potsherds, buttons and teeth.
You still love the woman who left out in a gale

from you flat and mumbling on a swith horse to midwife;
left you nothing but the writ’s insistence

that there is no death;
left you to chap with the earth.

Do you hear her rising, the rustle
of dirndl, the passel of hungry

little ones mewling in grass blankets?
There where the earth knows to open,

her hair like solstice wheat the day of gleaning,
going grey, but in the moonlight like milkweed

surging out of its pod.
Even the unimagined returns.