James Womack

Leaving the bright town to the desert
Of three p.m. on a Sunday afternoon—
The immigrants sweeping down the hotel floors.
Half-full buckets, unlicensed cactus pear
On a dusty street corner, the heat of the day
And the lower slopes, past acres of hangdog sunflowers.

Snails cobbling the aloes.
Enough trees ahead to see no more than trees
Until you are at them, and they open.
You mount always, over the valley:
A mudslip has slid a V from the other hillside.
A moth closes sticky and tight to a sycamore seed.

Not trackless, there are too many paths
Through the shade, dead footsteps on the needles
The air claggy, a thin river runs past
Without stopping. Climb higher among the trees
Lean against any one for solid help.
And her bones were turned to branches.

The trees break and you half fall
Onto an overgrown and sunken avenue,
It curves along the contours and ends
Where you end, in gardens of the empty house.
Pass through the vacant rooms, the open windows,
You cannot lose yourself.

Dead, like they die in the theatre.
I imagine us here, on the sill of the big house
Talking under the lintel of a doorway
You do not invite me through. Time strolls in the garden,
A heavy crop of pears that rots down each year,
The espaliered fruit trees, herbs, all grown wild.



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