Michael Goodfellow's first collection, Naturalism: An Annotated
Bibliography, has just been published by Gaspereau Press, and his poems
have previously appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Cortland Review,
Bear Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Nova Scotia (Canada).
We learned it from dryness:
shins against porch boards
after we dragged the mattress outside,
brook the quiet before a storm,
grass the rustle of dry rot,
sow bugs on stone—
that green was a form of damp,
that dryness as well as frost
bared trees, left each limb
a sparse line.
Just a few boards, after all,
held the outside in.
Drought stripped their depth:
paths to the lake, treed rooms,
the way a dream flattens a trail
and only the bends matter.
In a drought fall there are no hills.
Each night, salt wisped the air clear.
In the morning,
dust on the grass from animal fur.
Leaves sky brassed,
wind stoved in, we learned it all:
what place in the night could make a bed,
where the brook ran to silt,
Beyond the porch
the ground cracked and opened
a thin shadow,
a seam in the dirt the dark shone in.
Drought as a Metaphor for Endings
A ghost story ends
when the last person who remembers
the story dies:
where red maple sucks water
the wheel turned
what now runs shallow, rocked in brook
for the grist mill an old map had here.
Only when the story ends
will dirt hold,
the ghost take a wood form,
become a thing that eats ground. For now
water drains in drought
On the map, you finger it
as if the line could be smudged clean
like soil. The gloss crackles.
In the version that rain tells
the brook is alive, gashing
stone and bramble, tearing summer moss
The water steams and fogs.
Root and slate, granite, clay—
its gap remained, a body wide.
True stories are haunted. Dried.
Green was a false shade
as animals knew,
the way night shone through it,
the aired musked and lithe,
the way non-native plants held their leaves last:
peach, apple, hydrangea, lilac
while each other thing withered.
Aster, alder, winter holly
knew it was coming
as they did not—knifed frost,
leaves limp and rotted with sunlight,
rather than harden
to save a few days of cold light
they died back, softened and brown.
Wind sorted curled leaf from half line, dried
stem from peeled bark. Unlike green
the sayings were true:
that you could tell winter by pinecones,
that the ground wouldn't freeze
'til the swamps were full.
Look they said—look at them cones.
Each tree weighted, as if by snow.
Back to Front.