Cathy Kodra "Still Life With Longing"

My father asks if I like this 

young man who works at a sawmill—his voice urges, 

and I think it’s the same

as asking if I would like to be an animal instead

of human. Worlds spin between us, 

and the boy uses ain’t in the only sentence he speaks, 

a rusty hinge swinging loose 

by my ear the rest of the afternoon. He’s like Travis 

in Old Yeller, who wasn’t so bad when

I think about it now, now that I’m older and married

to a man who knows little of lumberyards 

but who loves to read in bed with me every night. And 

so Travis, or this lumberyard boy, 

is a safe vision of a guileless life, of certain sepia years

we dream while doing our living, 

stacking them in a small cedar box, pulling them out 

from time to time and breathing their 

sweet sawdust scent to the bottom of our lungs.

Call it a world, call it 

a quiet patch of forest that’s mine. It is nighttime 

my love, and we lie beside 

each other, our hands like lovers on the spines 

of books, the pages

only vague mimes of the pulpwood that gave them birth, 

of the trees that couldn’t speak

a word of human but nevertheless have borne us toward 

more worlds than we could 

ever read in a lifetime. The boy-ghost lingers in a corner; 

his fingers may have touched 

the paper we touch now. His ain’t may lie inside, 

though time has planed 

its sharp twang smooth. And my father too 

drifts nearby, though among 

the trees outside, peering in through my thoughts 

to see if everything turned 

out the way he meant it. His lips and tongue 

no longer form the sounds 

we know on Earth, but I hear his voice in my ear, 

its timbre low and sure: 

Turn out the light, my daughter, before our spirits go.

C. Ann Kodra, a SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus, works as an independent editor in Knoxville, TN. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in Blueline, drafthorse, Now & Then, Prime Mincer, RHINO, Yemassee, and others. She is a contributing editor for New Millennium Writings and an associate editor for MSI Press.

Photo: Andreea Maria, Pixabay.