While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence

by Robert Bohm
Melic Review
First Place, June 2003
Judged by Claire Hero


*

One Leg of a Return
for Janice Kijenski

As I leave: the old moment’s cathedrals,
rubble beneath
a blue sky’s supposed perfection. What

was Krakow’s sorrow like, when
it still knew sorrow existed? And should it
matter to us, who haven’t ever
lived here? Like someone

digging clam flesh from the shell
with a little fork, something’s pulled
from your belly. The soul? In

another location a maple leaf flutters
into the distance, a disconnected thought
on the American asylum’s grounds
toward which the cops drive

the ostentatious rebel, 1964. Months later
while you play the piano
he hasn’t heard yet, the asylum’s flowerbed
of withered tulips mocks him, hiding
boy-like in the nurse’s shadow

while the world closes in
around him. Eventually he leaves the place
forever. That of course

was then and this is now. The silence
still converses
with itself – yesterday

in Srinagar in Kashmir, today
here, tomorrow near Brush Run. Moments from one zone

or another: a child’s legos with which I build
a history of mornings
just for you. They

are what I am. Feel

the light. Gentle
as your husband’s breath
upon your neck, day
arrives.

*

Fall Outing

The swan’s soaked belly, a secret, rises
from the pond in a chaos
of beating wings
deaf Ephram doesn’t hear. Trees, throwing

flakes of burning ash
into the air, die
as he watches. When I walk him home

to Janice’s, we pass the old papermill, one wall
a pile of rubble. The chill wind blows
harshly along the rowhouses. Ears

reddened by silence, his head aches.

*

Beyond Brush Run

Near the civil war cemetery, apples
rot in an orchard
not far from where doe and fawn bound

through cold rain into
the underbrush, hides soaked

with the impalpable. Having lost track
of Katherine and not knowing how many years ago
she died, I look
through the broken window at a corner
in which I once passed out, drunk. When

I came to, she asked
“Do you understand now?”
while spaghetti boiled in the kitchen
at the dirt road’s end where my father

would one day stand
in the doorway, hat
in hand, awed by the old woman
telling stories about the storm-swollen Arno
as the rain

then as on so many other days and now
beat roof and walls, drumming
but not loudly enough to drown out

the fox with fractured leg yelping
in the steel trap
in the silence between two words. Only today
do I finally understand the drenched soil’s
smell, as the earthworm’s bristles

penetrate bright dark. In another place
where she once showed me a dead swan
coated with oil, I sat

on a flat roof in my soldier’s uniform
and talked with her at dusk. That

was the year DeGaulle almost fell
from power and Brown’s leg was blown up
in a paddy north of a mangrove swamp

where the water’s silence
like a stranger’s held breath at the border
of a small town at night
was louder than the unknown’s prelude played on the piano

by Katherine’s friend’s daughter in a parlor
years later. The rain
froze that evening as she played, then turned

to snow, which by morning
was knee-deep
anywhere you walked.

*

Dusk Mist Years Ago

Where the branch juts out from the maple trunk,
it disappears into mist.

The ducks on the pond, noise
minus bodies.

Even I, walking here, am only
an absence’s motion, to anyone
more than a foot away.

Still, I thumbtack a message
for Katherine on the gatepost
of the horses’ grazing field.
What will it mean to her? She doesn’t know yet
that I’ve returned. Or from where.

In all respects, I’m the mother
words desire, except
I abandon them when they’re born.

Years later, their crying haunts me.

Tonight I listen to ducks that aren’t there.

You whispered once, “Tell me who you are.”
I answered, “I’m the message that I leave.”

Mist touches stone.

That sound
is me.

*

Connelly, 1973

In the rain in the meadow
east of Katherine’s house
the wind pummels aster stems.

Leaves matted on his boots
he trudges through soaked grass
down the slope.

Where the trail
cuts through the woods at dusk
he disappears.

Later, the wind dies down.
The rain stops.
No stars tonight. Or moon.

*

Miles from Indian Caverns

Under the fern,
tomorrow’s absence. A raven’s

feather, like
the possible, lies on the path. Time: fat

with undergrowth
and burrs stuck

to fur. From this
I reconstruct

the wolf’s warm breath,
paw prints in snow. The mind, owning

no bow or gun, follows. Later
with one quick move, a flash

of animal fury, it kills its prey
with its teeth. Wind hisses

over creek rocks and through
dead weedstalks. Hearing

the unclear clearly, I find
beyond the thicket

a shack, falling apart, snow
on the floorboards, and sit

on a dented bucket, already
hungry for another meal.

*

Wednesday Night

As part of the return, I fed
the stallion an apple in the stable.
More than haysmell brought me there, brushing
my cheek against its mane.

Listening to the sound from the east meadow
of mist touching pond, I remembered
Srinagar, nothing else. A building burned
while a woman scratched for food in a stony place.

Thick as afterbirth, animal slobber dripped
from my hand. Later, the noise of ducks
flapping wings. No, that was different:
a year ago, one morning. I awoke. You weren’t there.

But she was. The woman grubbed for edibles
in the dirt inside my head. Behind her, an explosion
rocked the city. I could have saved her
but while I wrote my dispatch, she disappeared.

*

Season

Where my fingers
end, the air
says nothing. An absence

of paradox begins. Oak
bark’s rough feel. Leaves rot
among broken

field stalks. Prophecy
is like this: a simplicity
so simple it’s

complex. Old Connelly,
name carved here in stone,
decayed long ago, but now

his rot rots also. A cold front
comes in. The wind
shrieks along Smith Mill Trail. What

clarity. The pond
turns to ice, the night
is nice.



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