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I Try to Hear the Island Disappearing

by Gretchen Steele Pratt

To hear cigarette as only a sound, none
      of those ashes on the red leather,

Wild rose and no taste of fuchsia petals between my teeth,
      bathing suits drying on the rocks –

And tapdance free of the clicking in Helene’s basement,
      her red hair, it all coming undone.

Highway empty of the cold, all those songs,
      asphalt buckled with frost,

And frost, not my fingers going numb, scratching
      forests of it from those old storm windows –

Window minus the slate roof, slate minus
      my father on the scaffolding every spring –

 To feel autumn in my mouth and not be
      back in it, shoes untied in a yellow classroom.

Let cemetery mean nothing,
      no white butterflies, cold shade, no view of the

Ocean hear ocean devoid of the
      noon whistle, the flag becalmed or gonging all night

In the wind.  To hear the clear absence of a life –
      to stand under the streetlamp

Without any snow sifting down through the orange light,
      without any histories stapled to the telephone pole.


Gretchen Steele Pratt received her MFA from Purdue University and teaches English at Winthrop University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, The Iowa Review, The Southwest Review, Indiana Review, Ecotone, The Greensboro Review, RATTLE, and Poetry Daily. (12/2008)

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AGNI Magazine :: published at Boston University ©2008 AGNI