I write the word tawny
trying to evoke highlands
downed with autumn grass
savoring the velvety play of vowels
when the word yawns open and
out rushes — you
the almost ghost that troubles
every poem I write and my hand
warms against the nap of your back
I stroked over and over
on nights of elusive sleep.
You would say my hair hurts
meaning, attend to me
true axis of your world,
with all the avowals of motherlove,
heal the hurts little boys should not have.
And I faithfully intoned those ritual words
your tawny back,
as you preened and grew quiet and tiny
even when you overtowered me,
lulled in the stillness
of skin on skin and my authorizing hand
as if birthing you weren’t authoring enough
it had to be those syllables
of bronzed communing
and my touch like does
grazing the savanna of our shared awareness
of how the world rends you.
Emerging from the fog of Haldol and charcoal,
chaperoned by the suicide watch,
you whispered hoarsely
my hair hurts.
I had the illusion I knew what to do.
Oh God have they gone out too far this time?
jamming on the club’s tiny makeshift stage,
a row of cow skulls watching from the wall
with empty eyes
the sparse audience paralyzed
in ranks of cast-off wooden auditorium seats.
The drummer, my son’s childhood friend,
kit wedged in the corner,
tracks rhythms with a lemur’s sense of smell
and someone I don’t know on the upright bass
booms like the sea on Adderall,
backing up my boy
who stalks the edge
barefoot to feel the vibes
thrumming through floorboards,
guitar prizing like a lever.
They begin with some favorite known in the bone,
Zoller’s “Hungarian Jazz Rhapsody”,
its opening phrases
waves of clamorous pulse,
driving deliriously outward,
delivering us to a bare shoal
of electrified air.
Then a long cascading chord
like a wire in the brain
sweeps them out again
oblivious that we cannot
the thin air of such abandon.
At the end
they barely find the head
to reel them back
and in the stunned silence
shoves his guitar off like it’s scorching
eyes full and blank
heaven or hell
even his mother cannot tell.
Dimming of the Day
After the long trek
to the Point of Sleat
over boggy moor
from the lonely village of Aird
we arrive at Camas Daraich
a perfect cove of white sand
and strip gratefully.
The sun beats down
on frigid water
where jelly fish bloom translucent
as lambsmoke. Two ranges of mountains
clash behind us: the Red Cuillins
soft and rounded
as the heads of newborns,
and the Black Cuillins,
a ring of jagged giant’s teeth.
Still, we dip and dally,
guzzle the sharp salt air.
It’s almost ten o’clock, you say
and still light.
Marvelous then, but impossible now,
to stave off the dark any longer.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Ivy has published poetry in Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont (The Blueline Press, 2012), The Glass Seed Annual, Solidus 3 (with interview), Negative Capability, the last four issues of Bloodroot Literary Magazine, and most recently Antiphon vol 19.