Richard Manly Heiman lives on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. He works as a substitute teacher, and writes when the kids are at recess. His work appears in Dappled Things, Bop Dead City, After the Pause, and elsewhere. His URL is www.poetrick.com
By User:Kristinharris231 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Someday We’ll Incarnate You in Porcelain
Hair shimmers on your pillow like spring wheat.
Dead strands gather in locks,
caressing your tallowed forehead. You glow
with cornflower eyes, rose blush,
a ghost smile painted on parting lips.
Your flattened skull rests well in walnut,
framed in garlands like Ophelia dreaming.
We couldn't leave you for voles to gnaw.
We warmed your crib at dusk
for your slight return. Now,
we change your christening gown each fortnight,
call you darling child. Fill you with sand
and hold you ever closer. After complines
we exhale...imagining cooing in the darkness.
Pages are brittle as window panes, rubbed thin by centuries of hands. Some stick,
reluctantly. Now the dull brown cover curls like a dried snake skin. Inside,
they all glare past the fourth wall. Even the young. Some look
dead already. Careful longhand names and dates mark
corners: 1858. 1866, 1875. 1883. Hephzibah,
Ezekiel. Ruth, Abel and Nahum. These
are biblical names. Men in snowy
prophet beards, craggy women
broken down at thirty.
Five stillbirths, six
live and three
infants blink to
the huff of the flash pan.
Leaves end sudden, shy of
1887. The blackened brass clasp
catches empty sleeves from Antietam and
hand-carved hickory canes from Chancellorsville
and ghost formality. Gnarled hands clench in laps, proud
ramrod spines press hard on straight-backed chairs. The frock
coats fray on ancient portrait parchment, next to brittle whalebone
stays and layers of hemorrhaged petticoats. And shyly, tight-lipped children
search the edges for their vanished playmates, knowing. There can be no survivors.
~Richard Manly Heiman