'Angels' by Jim Davis-Rosenthal
Angels, Jim Davis-Rosenthal, 1999.



After Saigon
by Walter McDonald


Ghosts when I was six hovered like moths near a light bulb,
out on the porch in moonlight. Under the quilts, I saw.
They knew I hid in the house, and took their time. I believed
if I closed my eyes they'd find me, thought if I saw them,
I'd die, even if they heard me breathe. Tonight,
the moon is a ghost over the barn a thousand yards downhill.
Geese clipping the moon go without knowing how swift,

how beautiful they are. I'll light the lantern, the coal-oil flame
will puff, become a wick. I'll work all night, the one way I know
to gather ghosts. Scanning for clues, I'll hammer a trap of words
with dark holes augered for their eyes. Poems may unfold like birds,
glide, gash themselves, wings beating faster than my hand can write.
Hummingbirds banged and banged today and the screen door twanged.
They attacked beak-deep in funnels of morning glories, paused

and darted, millions of sips each hour. I watched amazed
and wondered how many hums to a petal, how many words to a quill.
The barn will thaw tonight, oak turning to coals. Wind
seeping through cracks in the barn will make logs pop, sparking.
Whatever the mind takes in it keeps, a miser squeezing its fist,
names on a wall in Washington. Throw down the rifle, wait.
Any ghosts worth calling are already here.







Text © 1994, 1999 by Walter McDonald
"After Saigon" first appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Volume 1, Number 1 (December, 1994). The work appears here by permission of the author.

Original Graphic Image, "Angels" © 1999 by Jim Davis-Rosenthal

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