No Silence in the Fields

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No Silence Rachel Men innieths e Fields

No Silence Rachel Men innieths e Fields Blue H1 ourPreSs 20 2

Contents 11 The Barn 12 M Introduces Himself 13 Unpacking 14 Evening 15 M Works in the Winter 16 Discovery, V’s Upper Thigh 17 Miscarriage is Like a Large, Hungry Gull 18 If the Barn Were a Museum 19 V Plays Her Violin 20 Argument 21 V Kept a Secret 22 M Works in the Springtime 24 What Killed All The Bees 25 M Removes a Tumor 26 V at the July Farmers’ Market 27 V Leaves You (I) 28 V in the Den, After Packing Her Things 29 V Leaves You (II) 30 Morning, The Diggers Break New Ground

Acknowledgements ·· ·· ·· ·· ·· ··

“V in the Den, After Packing Her Things” Sycamore Review, Issue 22.1, Winter/Spring 2009 “Argument” DIAGRAM, issue 10.5, 2010 “Miscarriage is Like a Large, Hungry Gull” Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vol. 49, Spring 2011 “M Removes a Tumor” BOXCAR Poetry Review, Issue 27, Spring 2011 “If the Barn Were a Museum” Indiana Review, Winter 2011, Issue 33, No. 2 “M Introduces Himself:” cream city review, Fall/Winter 2011, Vol. 35, No. 2

The first line of “M Introduces Himself ” is taken from the poem “A Final Thing” by Li-Young Lee.

God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.” And God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky … but for Adam no fitting helper was found. Genesis 2:18-20

The Barn Whose red shoebox, whose poisoned apple. Whose left-behind papers, left-behind books, piled like firewood-to-come along the doorframes and the countertops. Whose mewing cat, whose hissing wolf. Whose upstairs bathroom, whose downstairs bathroom, whose hand-laid tile, uprooted corner by corner. Whose perennials, whose annuals. Whose saved potatoes, wizened onions, forgotten and mouse-bitten trash. Whose constant uphill, whose flame from the stove, whose lost child, whose tired body? Whose inert cells, whose frozen guts? The deer who graze on the foot-long grasses in the yard look up at a second-story window, remember an open blind, a closed blind, a map of New England, a descending scale in intervals of three. Whose new home, whose impossible new home, impossible new bodies touching as if hope could never leave a place for good.


M Introduces Himself I am that last, that final thing, the body come from working, wet and weathered. Somewhere close, the woman I love fries eggs in a hot skillet. She makes coffee from water and grounds. In the earth, the sleeping perennials are hers. Outside, I slough the dusty skin of horses; I listen to the hearts of dogs. Outside, I am do, or run, an animal, I am a verb. Like all animals, I verb, I dog. Outside, I do, I run; I listen to hearts, dust the skin of horses. Inside, I slough off work, while she makes soup from water and roots, wipes grease from a cold skillet. Somewhere close, a third, legs kicking, come from our hopeful working, wet and weathered, that last, that final thing—a body.


Unpacking Here in the barn, dilettantes at the feet of the wilderness, we rip open cardboard, stack books along the uninsulated walls. The stethoscope dangles from the door; the Kitchenaid whirs by the old feed storage. The huge wooden headboard keeps polished watch over the untamed forest. For heat, we’ll burn only the kindling we can hoist onto each other’s shoulders. What will winter be like here?—a mess of chemical salt, the coyotes quiet, the fox coy, blushing fiercely in the snow. The barn, as red as the fox, as the bloomed confession of a blistered finger, caught loving the fire too much.


Evening The rocking, the fight, the push, the head and foot, the orientation. The salt. The storm outside, a Massachusetts fury: rigid and fierce like a starched shirt against soft hands. The variable. The cat rubbing her back against a corner—the hair, on edge, razor-sharp. The piteous, piteous mewing. The animal search, the syllables, the plaint. The colors: claret, a purple vein, November-white skin. The fat dumb muscle of a tongue, the quarrel of two. The order, the predestiny, the chase, the pull, the physics, the god, the shock, the rise and rise of chests that cannot fall, the mouth, the lashing rain, the goal, the goal.


M Works in the Winter Last week, I took quick work on a nearby farm, nursed the flock’s new calves, showed them how to take to their mothers’ udders—the weakest are born without the knowledge to find the breast, all blind and soft, and need a wiser hand against their necks to guide. In the wild, those lost, born first, find ruin: their mouths, a sucking O for milk, greet frost at their gums, ice under their barely hardened hooves. Their guts take wind and burn.


Discovery, V’s Upper Thigh Hello, lump—size of a million curious atoms, soft against my hand, where a pulse stammers like a lost child. While we get to know each other, the grey ghost of sick-and-well might make me a promise. Looking at you, lump, the deals I’d make must mean I’m a nasty sort of woman. You, who borrows my skin to cover the sick party of cells; you bringer of winter, you sad swollen clown nose, you weak shout, you half-inch car wreck: you, the moment the ice surprises the tire with slick.


Miscarriage is Like a Large, Hungry Gull Come to roost in our rafters, the damn thing lets loose on the foyer stairs, an indifferent assassin, a tired old intestine releasing its sins. We aren’t anywhere near the Cape, I say over the hum of the refrigerator. At night, she swells to the size of the Wright Brothers’ plane, all plumes and bones brittle like straw, an appetite like a pregnant woman’s, always perched between us when we’re alone in the house. So many of these creatures, beaches of them, with hearts so small and dumb and procedural. How many houses must feed them and feed them, watch them swell. Bird, I shout, and each time I name her, she grows.


If the Barn Were a Museum First exhibit: the dining room. Cold hearth, working fireplace. The table, may it never be moved, a heavy slab of rendered oak. Second exhibit: the early morning light, which shaped the Puritans, coming through a second-story window. The evening light, which leaves at four, turning the snow into ink. Third exhibit: tented books on end-tables and sofa cushions, books abandoned and books still eyed, considered, in the quiet. Fourth exhibit: a man’s razor. A woman’s razor. Fifth exhibit: workboots and rainboots and snowboots. In the face of nature, one must always bear what’s practical. Last exhibit: a woman, so still she might be wax. No matter your vantage point, she presents only her back, as narrow and straight as a barn beam, her face inscrutable, perhaps not even preserved.


V Plays Her Violin Vibrato, what is it, singing or sobbing? The lilt of spring birds or the hungry wolf that moans in the woods? Fingers shake unbidden, like freezing if you’re unprepared for snow. You are not mine, hands; the music hands make belongs not to me but to the rafters where it drifts, and perches, stares. Up high, the soft notes might make friends with mice, or rest in the cobwebs I cannot reach to clean. The song might never descend from there, with all the quiet darkness that collects below me in piles. I’m stuck, rosin hard and golden in its wooden well, some moaning scraps of nature in the shape of a woman.


Argument It begins between pinched fingers, the sting of salt inside a bitten nail. When I first looked away from you, I found two ants cresting the pantry door, breadcrumb boulders in their mouths, overwhelmed. Where they exhausted, met their end, I cannot trace, like the spit you thrash and hock into the sink each morning while I doze. The refuse. What we cannot swallow, force mouths to trash. What comes from biting, picking wrong words right—roll them like whiskey, seek their fumes— how the burning thrills, and anger sublimates. Later, you take into your mouth a swatch of hair, an earlobe, a cry for God, feel the g on your tongue, avenging its strength in pain.


V Kept a Secret One night, after first frost, his cat fetched a bone she found in the woods. I kept it for days, a paperweight, neatly cleaned of flesh, until I realized it belonged to his other cat, Tabitha. The one that ran away last month. Tabby’s left ribs. I tossed it like a boomerang into the night. Nights after, he’d still look for that dead cat, he’d look after a day of work, while I drank tea at the kitchen table, remembering how light the damned thing was, how strong I felt sending it back to the fields that created it.


M Works in the Springtime I No silence in the fields behind our house—even the bugs hiss sire, sire. The making of animals, rut and grunt. Occasionally, the farmers call me—and, with tubes and basters, we double the flock, make milkers and broilers, while the corn shoots up behind us in tiny earnest sprouts. Out here, when the birthers die, the prayers grow vertical, grass and soil, and reclaim. II We chase each other up and down the local hills, athletic and suddenly warm, the erstwhile snow now runoff greening the green. Her legs push forward, mare bent on circling the same fenced field. Some runs I’ll let her pull ahead,


watch her ponytail swing like a pendulum, bundles of wheat drifting leftrightleft in the wind. These times I forget how old we must be, our joints aching with four decades’ carbon, how many times we’ve feigned surprise at the tiny farm always there at the top of the hill, the crop that rotates and rotates, but never changes yield. III Spring from, spring to, the calves that leap long on quivering legs, shining with afterbirth that mothers seek with thick warm tongues. Violet’s cheek turns from pillow to pillow, the sunlight in the barn coaxing a deep red blush, her arms a pile of firewood, her hips an oak in autumn, the space between them a thousand leaves unseasonal, already ablaze.


What Killed All The Bees “The sudden summer, then the sudden storm,” guess the weathermen, while outside the bees die in magnificent clumps—piled six-high by the barn’s back door. Their bodies all fit in my cupped hands, prayerful, delivering them to the trash. I know what killed the bees—I know what brought the Angel to the Israelites in Egypt, the women who awoke in the morning, their eldest sons lifeless. What the bees, left as favors, as someone else’s sacrifices, tell us: be afraid. When it’s time, we all can be made the size of a bee. After the miscarriage, I met this God: a wet and un-mournful mattress, a plagued gathering of cells—some that made hair, some that surely made a heart.


M Removes a Tumor Violet, Violet—come here and watch, come and stand beside me in the operating room, while I scoop the failed tissue from the sinew, dark, a tiny furious storm tucked between joint and muscle, snake the thread through and through the milker’s just-made wound. The cow, so quiet, look at her eyes. Look at the damp tears, the fearless tremble, the pain for only pain. Look at her calmness, propped on her side, her ribcage tremendous: like airbags, prepared. Look at your flank, see there the flesh I would have excised to keep you whole, to keep those light eyes fixed on mine, as I’d wield the smallest, sharpest blade. We could dump the cell waste in the Cape’s bent elbow, live our lives scraped clean, healed under my wanting palms.


V at the July Farmers’ Market My penance—measuring the heft of bushel and peck, fecund avalanche of blackberries. Around me, everything reproduces recklessly, sweet, blushing fierce but unashamed. Even the Amish girl crosses and uncrosses her uncovered legs, the dog beside her panting and panting in heat. Tonight, I’ll take knives to tomatoes and fennel, butcher the chicken myself, barehanded. I’ll flush like an Empire apple over the stove, again when your hands find my stomach in hunger. I’ll offer my body whole and wait to see what’s sown. I’ll travel in August back to the market, light as a bag in the wind, alone.


V Leaves You (I) I found her violin broken, bridge marks left on the once-taut strings like tiny joints, the wood split down the middle of its round belly, gutted ship’s hull, the songs no longer at their oars. She told me the slurred notes were always the easiest to bow, the ones that come in pairs, so close in tone, a fingertip’s breadth from C to D, the universe between. There’s nothing left to rub against the horsehair—now the world’s made of collapsed arches, revised. No friction left to press against, hear something flat, something sharp.


V in the Den, After Packing Her Things I wanted to say no, but how beautiful the end, the sweet s of yes, how it can’t stop until the mouth closes. I wanted to stay in my chair, but somebody opened the wine. I wanted to lift the glass slowly, but the beast in me can carry anything. I wanted to pray, but we parse those words in vain, allergic. I wanted to grieve, but from the window I see the coyotes that live in the woods, eat housecats, spit the bones out on our unmowed lawn.


V Leaves You (II) You imagine repainting the barn during last frost, maybe slate, maybe pewter. The difference between slate and slake, quench of thirst, release. Extra eggs from the hens—you’re feeling generous today, or maybe it’s wintry hunger, something like storage, something like hoarding. Alone, you skim your fingers through her stuff as ice forms on the window like the handprints of spying children. Soap-skin smell from shirts, ridiculous bottles of toiletries (what extravagance— a traveler’s toilette; a doll’s). The socks with holes, the books with ripped pages, the empty medicine bottles, the shells of broken eggs you’ve cracked yourself, too famished to eat slowly, enormous yolk of sun fitting whole inside your hungry mouth.


Morning, The Diggers Break New Ground Time for the miracle of multiplying, strip the barn walls and make ten houses where one once thrived. The sad-mouthed man, said the foreman, came with keys in hand, a checkbook in his teeth. A decent deal, he said, and hid his eyes. The first day, kind as a parent to the virgin beams and siding, we found the box, soft and soggy, clothes for a newborn body, booties and blankets, tags still attached. Trash, said the foreman, toss the lot, there in the dumpster behind the barn’s back door. The script on the box’s lip: For Violet, For Summer, the last part lost to rot.


About Rachel Mennies Rachel Mennies is the reviews editor at AGNI. Her work has recently appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, and Witness. She won the Leonard Steinberg/Academy of American Poets Prize and received her MFA in Poetry from Penn State, both in 2011. She currently lives in Pittsburgh and works for the University of Pittsburgh.

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