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Matthew Wimberley

Composing the Dark

At the magnolia where I carve our initials—as if to make a sign
Binding us to the earth—I stare into the haze of sundown
Coming through the branches, string-like translucences of spiderweb, knowing the world’s
Darkness waits beyond the tree line like the strung-out townie smoking by the door.
Everyone loves him, the little sidestep he does as he walks to the bar and orders well liquor—
For his laugh which comes on now as the cracking ice on the creek, the cue ball’s
Graze of the nine—the felt worn away like some animal trace through the understory
Headed toward eternity again and again. In the bark, I make a question for someone else, an
Ichnolite, a glyph, a crude impression for the future. Whatever will be remembered is
Just blade-thin anyway. Once, in New York, walking with a friend and her daughter,
Keeping the dog from straying too far from the sidewalk, she told me how twice a year
Light from the sunrise and sunset aligns perfectly with the grid of streets,
Manhattan’s solstice. We were on Barrow Street facing the Hudson in the distance.
Nobody else was around. I could smell cut flowers in the warm air. Someone left
Open the window at the music school and we could hear the faintest notes of a piano
Playing inside, some child practicing. Then I imagined how young I was, first learning to shape
Quiet and feeling into life—the afterschool program, my fingers spread on the keys, feet flat—
Resting position the instructor called it—his teeth yellow and tobacco stained, one missing
So counting, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, he whistled as he kept
Time. I tried to keep up. My first lesson. Bored, I turned away from the bench and got lost
Under stacks of books. I wrote poems on the backs of envelopes my parents tossed aside,
Various scraps of paper, and corners of handouts in the classrooms I mostly daydreamed in,
Waking every now and then so they knew I was alive. I read dictionaries, learned to solve for
X, flipped between equations and words—through xanthic, xanthophane, and xylograph,
Year after year, pressing the blade to the bark as I am now, a kind of
Zealot leaving behind these rough symbols on the way to hell or paradise.

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