Clela Reed - "Ascension," "The Gift," and "More."

Ascension

When they knew the ladies of the church

were sending waves of food,

my mother’s neighbors fished for other needs

as I hung there, caught like a trout

on her corded phone,

until they asked, “What about paper goods?”

and I leapt at the easy bait, more than once.

I didn’t mind that on the funeral day a growing

flock of perpetual-plastic bags perched everywhere

—on the fridge, the counters, the washer—some

light as angel down, all with contents pure.

 

That night I dreamed of my mother–

she who found humor in the absurd,

delight in irony,

she who had to be hushed at wakes–

ascending in laughter on a bright path,

thousands of Styrofoam plates

cobbled into the white and narrow,

stretching upward into clouds,

cups curbing both sides, rim-to-rim,

each with a paper napkin

and a plastic fork

tucked neatly inside.

 

 

The Gift

 

Windows etched with branches

and sparrows at the feeder,

the sun too heavy to rise much

above the rattling tops of trees.

Late-fall days. The chill deepens.

Yet a gray bird on a limb

(nearly dissolved into drab sky)

 lifts into flight and transforms,

 a flash of  white underwings

charging the air.

 

And I think of my father at breakfast

that day, his quiet routine shifting

to make room for me, for my bustle,

my insistence on vitamins and hope,

my smile that reminded him of Mother.

 

When I joined him, he was staring

out the window, holding his coffee

with both hands, palsied now, once able

to clear forests and slice trees into planks.

Something had caught his attention.

A man who strung words slowly on threads

of deliberation, he hadn’t talked much lately.

“That bird…” he said.

 

“What bird, Dad?”

He set down his cup and motioned

toward the window. “There was a gray bird

on the wire there, just a plain gray bird,

but then when he lifted off  to fly—

all that white under  his wings…you know...”

 

For weeks after his death, before insight

sparked this memory to warm me now

more than fire or flannel or even

the down of feathers, gray and white,

I wished I had said,

“And that’s why I write poetry, Dad.”

instead of just nodding,

naming the bird, smiling over my cup.

 

 

More

 

The house on the hill in Alabama

sits vacant beneath blue sky.

After the faces are lifted from its walls,

the shelves and cabinets cleared of their history,

the closets boxed up for the church,

cobwebs and memories siphoned from corners;

after we take for our own the photos and hats,

watches and thimbles, things that remind us;

after my mother’s fabric and spools and plans

have flowed into younger hands; after the tub

of my childhood is scoured of stains and promise,

the dining room table, dependable center,

carted away from its prints on the rug,

and beds in pieces maneuvered through doors;

after the plants and the cat go on living with others

and my father’s pecans mound deep in weeds;

after the heat is turned off and the curtains drawn;

after the hollow shutting of doors, and locking,

and driving away, what’s left struggles in me

to mean more than a sixty-year-old house, empty

and still, facing the late sun across cotton fields,

bolls full, whiter than I can remember.

 

Clela Reed lives with her husband and a herd of hungry deer in a hardwood forest near Athens, Georgia. Her poetry has been published recently in Caesura Literary MagazineColere JournalThe Kennesaw Reviewanderbo.com Online Journal, and Storysouth Journal. She has an MA in English, which she taught for many years. In the past two years, she has participated in the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Sewanee Writers' Conference, and the Summer Literary Seminars (St. Petersburg, Russia).

Posted on December 7, 2013 .