Two Doves

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
Second Place, March 2011
Judged by Kwame Dawes

I would have made a bad mother, you said. Shuttered
milk eyes, the way I search for white deer

where there are none. I saw one once, a freak
of nature, a ghost or a symbol of some other god,

one I was sure to be jealous of. You said so many things,
I could not love. We had two wash basins side by side,

“renew thyself”, you said. And the thought of cleansing
my body so close to yours, within minutes of that pass;

all I could think was the sponging off, the tinkling of water
against skin like wind chimes, never to be put into a breath

or a thought. The roof, at this time, housed a family of doves
and they taunted me, cooing and brooding overhead, scratching

and clawing on the roof. What did they want, I wondered?
If they wanted peace; I wanted them to be different

like the white deer. I wanted them to raise their family
and shove off, leave us to our business. I think I wanted

to be an inky bat, waiting to creep the bedcovers, waiting
to steal your breath. Poised as I was to write it all down, leave

my own bloody mark. I wanted to suckle your blood, snatch flies
from the air. All women want to eat their babies, I told you.

You will say I have imagined this when our affection
is pure. I think that my journal is not free enough to talk.

Maybe the sponge and water know the truth of it.
When I put my nose to the crumbs of skin, when I bring

the fountain of you out to the garden, the worms,
the ready earth, are thirsty for what we have.

Here is a poem that will reward constant reading. The psychological complexity is not forced and is no trite thing here. There are lines resonant with insight and feeling that stay with us, force us to review them again and again to find whatever we can find in them: “Maybe the sponge and water know the truth of it”. The bathing image, the sensuality of it, the idea of bodies so close together, representing the very distance that seems necessary despite the hunger in this speaker to want to be closer, closer than could be healthy: “I think that my journal is not free enough to talk.” The poem, however, decides to be free enough to talk the unspeakable, almost animal impulses of love and attended fears of decay and death, and this poem achieves so much. At times the syntax loses its naturalness, but this is a small, easily remedied glitch in an otherwise compelling poem. --Kwame Dawes