J. Brian Long: Gallery for The Singing of the Wheels
Mile 307 - Wolfton | A Guy Thing | Her First Love
Mile 307 - Wolfton
Collared like escaped slaves, two strays
straggle in the high grass median
remembering themselves into wolves
again. A week and they'll turn back,
gaunt-bellied, rattleboned, tales low
and gnat-warmed, sniffing trails
of their own rank piss back to the wag,
to the weal, of the gentling-chain.
They stare the gap between us, snuff
the dust, paw at a must they can
not scratch. I am neither here nor there.
I miss my place at the hearth of the boy's
slant beams. I miss my bed in the room
behind the woman's stare. Slow, slow, I am
remembering myself into a man again.
A Guy Thing
I try not to think of you much
since we moved from Thorn Grove
that autumn of the flood, but because
she moaned your name beneath me
a few days past, they have
come to mind again: our afternoons
as children when we walked the ruins
along the slant edges of the quarry,
those high, cold walls leaning into
the mimosa heat. I remember how
we crept through the rooms
of your house, quiet as dust
lest we wake your father, slit
our thumbs, bled into one another.
I remember there was a time
the rain, the leaves dripping green
and cool with old light. Someone
had been there just before us, thrown
a line into the water, left it there.
When you reeled it in, a bream dangled
silver on the swallowed hook, struggled
against your hand. I remember laying
it in the damp curls of the moss, stilling
it with my heel, tugging until blood
welled up in its eyes, until I yanked
its heart through its lips. You said
That was a thing to see, and I said yes,
it was something else. I'm hanging
in there. She is really quite the catch;
soft inside as all petal and starlight. I try
to forget she is still, in ways, yours,
and that's easy enough to do most times
when she swallows, when she wriggles
slick, electric beneath my hand.
Her First Love
To understand, you must first know rain.
It must be autumn, the low tone of dusk
chanted close in the leaves. You must have
fathered many sorrows, but only one daughter,
and remember her small in the bend of your arm,
think back to some quick kiss of shadow
long since lengthened past you in the light
of a few (O, many. Many?) years. You must
wonder who she is there in the lace folds
of the curtain, who she has become in the long fall
and sigh of the drape. You must forget you were
ever God. Be lost, yes. Be tired and far-wandered
and grey. But also, be still: wait with her
in the moonlight one evening rain; watch
behind the pane for the boy come to take her.
Let her rise from you and wander to the edge
of your reach, let them linger alone at the rim
of the sung dark: she will be seventeen years
old, she will have forgotten her divinity,
she will cup her hands to the night, to the rain,
and sigh (more to him or the sky than to you):
I know this.
I know how this feels.
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"Mile 307 - Wolfton", "A Guy Thing" and "Her First Love" appear in The Singing of the Wheels (Kentucky:
Wind Publications, 2004). Copyright © 2004 by J. Brian Long. Reprinted with
permission from Wind Publications.