Spring 2024

A Day in autumn

By Steve Fay

How to barter wakefulness from the dawn?
The sun’s piddling recruits barely fissuring the inky window.

Sleep still glacier, carrying red boulders, memory,
desire, never ending falls through space,

cocoon in alder branches across the river.
You drift toward altars: a bowl, a jar, a table,

steam crying from a kettle.
But first the thistle-like necessity of cold water splashed in eyes.

Then donning threads, carrying trash.
You walk, you glide, you clamor to some task: figuring, cooking,

mortising words—ever-acting:
dreaming your office or kitchen a space capsule.

While outside grasshoppers in their hazmat suits climb
the burdock, where once you caught them with your hands,

waves crash on stones, and, rimming the bluff,
the sad maple leaves rusting away, conjuring winter.

Then the darkness regrowing, horizons sprouting street lamps,
lawns retreating to bunkers of shadow.

And finally your body, after hours of resisting,
sinking again into the bog,

its backwaters registered by roots of osier—
until, again, the light.

How a dead plum tree matters

Wood of flowering plum, you give it to a luthier.
The tree died in your yard. You cut it down.

He cuts blocks from it on a table saw.
You think he is careful, but his fingers have scars.

Then he whittles, from the blocks, smooth
round pegs, looking like lengths of animal rib.

A violin’s arrived, or is it a bluegrass fiddle?
Between its top and back the old peg’s gone hard,

rings, almost rattles on louder chords.
You feel like that at sixty-nine, something

buzzing or going out of tune. He slides the new
peg in, soon finds the spot to make the notes

sound right again. The luthier and you drink
canned beer in his kitchen. He offers cold pizza,

but you must leave, to scan horizons for
dead trees—for music’s sake or for your own.

Steve Fay began life a dozen miles from the Mississippi River in western, Illinois.  Since the mid-1970s, many journals have published his poetry, which has lately appeared (or is forthcoming) in: Comstock Review, Decadent Review, Jabberwock Review, La Picciolėtta Bȧrca, Menacing Hedge, Santa Clara Review, Tar River Poetry, The Dewdrop, and TriQuarterly. His collection, what nature: Poems (Northwestern UP 1998) was cited by the editors and board of The Orion Society as one of their 10 favorite nature/culture-related books of the 12-month period in which it appeared. He lives among wooded ravines, and a donkey pasture, in Fulton County, Illinois.

Spring 2024