THERMOS 3: Sam Reed

Here are three poems by Sam Reed, taken from our third issue. Sam’s poetry and person are integral to the ideas we’ve always held about THERMOS, and it’s a pleasure for me to read these four again now. — AS

 

Come Here

When the Hopi discovered the Spanish cavalry
Nearing the pueblo walls, just after dawn,
The elders who went to meet them made a line
Of inviolable cornmeal on the ground.
The Spanish read an edict from the Pope.

What do you think you’re looking at.

A wave of wind through the lined-up horses—
Spraying their manes, one after the other, and
Breaking, invisible again, across the world?

It was a wave of cruelty and sorrow
Called the world that brought me you.

Cain
Invented neither cruelty nor sorrow,
But he did invent
Irrigation.

Cities sprang from deserts, whole
Aquifers of blood. When he looked
At his brother, right then,
In the field,

What do you think you were looking at.
Here, at the edge of the city

It’s almost dark.

It’s not summer yet.
The creek’s still flowing.

I can feel your hair in the wind in mine.

I can see it in the dark.
Come here.

 

Six Months Later, We Met

Late light streamed like water through a snag
Past the old torqued cottonwoods filled with it
And filling it with translucent seed-fluff drifting
In languid scattershot. Clear hard heat
Lay flush on open ground for shimmering miles,
But here, in watered bottomland, seemed shelter.
I followed you. There was a thing you’d seen
Wandering by yourself not long before
Back from the road, back from any trail (your sheer
Bluest warning, flecked opaquer grey)
Just come. We crackled through thigh-deep grass
With the lowest branches dipping to brush our chests
From overhead depths of saturated green,
Ruffling beneath the reptilian croak
Of herons, half-glimpsed, straining from their nests
Atop the canopies. I followed you
Imagining the face I couldn’t see
Just steps ahead—suffused, conversant, mute
With leaf-flap, with every rustling disappearance
And each shifting constellation of cotton-motes,
Afternoon thick as night whose dark was amber.
To watch you unaware was all but pleasure.
In the window recently you were on your knees
And absorbed, profile shrouded in your hair,
In making a small mound of stones and duff—
Sculpting, smoothing, sprinkling the ground—
And didn’t say anything when you came in.
(Later I poked at it—some old deer jaw.)
I’d never have stopped there if you hadn’t shown me.
Nearly hovering, perched on the X
Two slender twigs that wouldn’t have held a sparrow
Made crossing by my shoulder, woven from
Cottonwood seed and spider webs and down
Was a creamy, glimmering, pipe-sized little bowl.
The rim just barely caved, so that who looked
Up from inside would have had a whole sky
Encircled in his roof; the walls, at dawn,
The close-pressed ruddiness of sunlight through
Shut eyelids. I went to move in on it
But you caught me, then—your expression, backlit
Though I heard what in your voice I might not have
Ignored, had it been any less plain—why
Don’t we just
I don’t know, but please—till shrugging
You I stretched over thorns to see inside.
I thought, at first, now where your shadow was
Some odd joke—a raisin?—or that a beetle
Nestled in what then appeared shards of egg,
And I tried digging it, fingertips fumbling,
Huge—as I heard you level, at my back,
My name—scraped, picked, and finally pinched out
A gnarled, blackened hatchling hummingbird,
Wispy legs tucked up and wings clapped tight
In nearly indistinguishable relief,
Its beak no more than a burnt splinter’s tip,
Deep divots for its eyes that almost touched
In tunneling. I held it out to you,
So slight I couldn’t feel it in my hand.
It grew as if heavy there. You never glanced,
Staring and staring and staring me out across it
Into where, dim, hooded with light, a face
So bared itself, so bald,
Boredom with the last hurt I could do
On older, fresher anguish burying so little
What blanched beneath
I couldn’t look, hard as I tried, at last,
Away—then you did and, with a half-turn,
Went. Is that who I am. Your grief was all
My curiosity. I wasn’t young.

 

Regarding the Domestication of the Horse

So this is dusk in west Asia
I realize watching my mother ride
Like a loose scrap of flower in a snowmelt flood

This is the prairie of shale and arrows
Where daylight and thunder trample each other trying
To be the sky
Gods who make everything but promises
This is someone forgetting for a moment
Her life to stare out at the fluid puzzle

Of the herds
Where one glances back
I can see them

Early spring violence and a still thing inside it
Wherever they travel a horizon follows
And the wind does not deserve them

 

River

It wants in. It wants in
All over, and in now
—Inside, already, the animals
Inside it, wrenching
Each ponderosa root
Closer—even the rocks
Look swollen
And when I kneel,
Reaching for one,
My hand’s run through
With cold. It’s fall now, but
It’s always winter,
Far enough upstream.
Far enough upstream
Is what’s already happened, just hasn’t
Happened yet—
Like snow that’s fallen
And hasn’t hit the ground,
Like the quiet, quiet peaks
Where it has.
I watch them for a minute
And when I look back down
My dad’s hand is dripping
At the end of my wrist.
Skinnier, too smooth,
But there it is.
He must be up there
On a trip we took once.
He must be waiting
While I go to find water,
Silent when I say I’ll be back—
Propped against a rock
In shorts and soaked shirt,
Falling asleep
With his backpack on
When a dark June front
Lathers up out of nothing
And pours in over the pass,
And he doesn’t really care,
Or doesn’t really know,
Sitting by the rock, by himself,
When the first implausible,
Scattered, and half-frozen
Snowflakes disappear
Into his legs.
A jay shrieks.
I should be getting back.

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