Moon Garden + Another Blue Sky
“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 Terrain.org and can often be found in the forests and rivers along the east slopes of the Cascade Range in Washington.