Moon Garden + Another Blue Sky

Derek Sheffield

Moon Garden

“Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”
– Wallace Stevens

All winter the squares of wire fence 
keep nothing in and nothing out. No

life among mounds of snow, only
every night’s alabaster glow 

until the stars with their stick bones
and quick tongues begin to turn

the glitter of their cold eyes
toward us. But then it is us turning

one morning to the window to see
the earth returned. Yes, we can breathe out there.

We can reach our hands into warming heaps 
of soil and with a fat thumb press in a seed.

Say one that shines like a drop of black.
A flower, say. Say the sun.

Another Blue Sky

Say a stray had kittens in your basement
and you were stroking their marble-gray fur
and gazing into their eyes

just opening the morning
you could hear your mother’s footsteps
stomping out of the house
as she once again 
left for the last time

and say this time it was.
Say all day at school you and your sister
couldn’t stop thinking about these things 
and you ran the walk back 
with your bright keys bouncing
and flashing around your necks
and flew through those silent rooms 

to the pile of kittens 
coming to life at your touch, mewing
and shivering, and the one whose back legs
didn’t work dragged itself

into your sister’s held-out hands. 
It’s your sister’s scratchy voice over the phone 
that calls you back to this time— 
those kittens crawling jerkily 
across your lap, licking their fur, 
the broken one

always in her hands, the soft taps
of its legs like limp blessings 
everywhere she carried it.

“You don’t remember?” she asks
as if she doesn’t believe you, 
can’t believe you could be so free

of that morning
she walked into the lemon-colored kitchen 
and you looked up from your cereal,
milk dribbled on your chin,
and you—your father 

at the counter trying to hush you,
your voice raising his—
you told her what he said needed doing,
and she ran from the house
and you went back 
to spoonfuls of cornflakes 

as she found the bucket of water
with the lump of kitten in the backyard,
two blue eyes like chips of glass 
that stared straight through her
to the blue sky
that had rushed into them.

These are the eyes that find her 
when dreams bring back your mother. 
“Mish you,” she says, her words beginning 
to slosh together, “but you sound just like Dad.”
A pause as she lights a cigarette.
“You,” she says, her voice in the smoke,
“you were the one who told me.”

You the puzzle she’s been piecing 
since first grade, the gaps 
running crookedly between you.
She would like to finish you 
like a patchwork landscape
or bunch of balloons—
whatever it is

you turn out to be. And you
must help, must answer each call
and press the phone to your ear 
and walk from room to room, 
looking down as you step out
under every open sky.

Derek Sheffield’s collection, Not for Luck, was selected by Mark Doty for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. His other books include Through the Second Skin, finalist for the Washington State Book Award, Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, and forthcoming in March of 2023 from Mountaineers Books, Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, and Poetry. He is the poetry editor of and can often be found in the forests and rivers along the east slopes of the Cascade Range in Washington.

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