The Muse

(An International Journal of Poetry)

Volume-1                                          June-2011                                                        Number-1

 

                                                                                                                                   

   Our Children

                    by Phillip A. Ellis

Though you are not fertile,

these poems are our children,

and, as we settle them into bed,

and as we bring them to rest,

you will kiss each one good night

and retire to my arms.

 

But you are not here with me,

and these poems are all crying for you,

as if you had never been,

and, like an infant monkey

clinging to galvanised wire,

to a mother that never calms,

they are clinging to my knees and plead—

to me—for you.

 

As I try to lay each one in bed,

and as soon as one is settled,

those who had gone before climb out

and come crying to me.

They will not sleep and dream.

 

I do not know what to do with them:

they will not be calmed.

They cling to me, who am but wire,

and they seek a succour that cannot come,

and they seek a comfort I cannot give,

and I am alone as you are elsewhere,

and I am as one sorrowing

for a wife who will not return,

for a wife who will not come home,

for a wife who will not take up these children

into her arms,

and lead them into sleep and dreams.

And, as we settle them into bed,

and as we bring them to rest,

you will kiss each one good night

and retire to my arms.

 

I am alone with them;

you are away.

I am alone with them;

you are a waiting researcher,

marking in records the poems that will cling to me,

marking in records the poems in a misery

that your ears cannot hear,

and that my ears cannot forget.

I am alone with them;

and you are away.

 

Though you are not fertile,

these poems are our children,

and, as we settle them into bed,

and as we bring them to rest,

you will kiss each one good night

and retire to my arms.

 

But you are not here with me.

.................................

 

         Married Life

                              by Phillip A. Ellis

 

We are the couple brought together, writing

these poems, with first one line, another line

turned on its head, the way an ox would plough

along one line then turn, return

the way it came. And, writing these, I wonder

whether such oxen ever felt a sense

of peace, and cooling muscles once the work

had ended, whether they found satisfaction,

relief, an oxen sense of purpose, almost

meaning to life. You need your rest? Then rest,

O ox: your work is well, and done, and finished.

 

But if these lines were lines of sonnets, maybe

iambic sonnets, not free verse, then maybe

your hands would hold the rhymes, all predetermined,

ready to broadcast through the furrows, scattered

by hand the way the seeds of other ages

were scattered, sowed. And maybe, in these sonnets,

the sense would swell and fill the lines with shoots

so cleanly green and fresh, the earth itself

would seem to sing the sonnet's sensibility,

seem to announce the poetry itself,

with a wine's voice. I think the oxen dream

of such a voice, so sweet, so honeyed, rippling

encouragement when ploughing furrows, first

one way and then another, then, at end,

“O ox: your work is well, and done, and finished.”

 

And would you guide the ox that ploughs our land?

With me behind it, making sure the plough

itself will never turn, and leap and break

the line the furrow makes within the soil

we turn over. I know this, know that something

about us, making us as one together,

a singled team, that toils and works the soil

together, sowing seeds so shoots of green

can rise and grow to fruitful wheats we harvest,

with some to feed the oxen, some to sell

and some to sow again, until the end

when we will never sow again, our children

inheriting our toil, our legacy

until at last the line is dead, the soil

is also dead and barren, sun like one

who withers with a look of anger. Would you,

knowing this, guide the ox at all? Or would

you take your leave and, breaking my heart, leave me

with fields unploughed, the oxen lorn, heartbroken

and yearning your fair voice? I can't believe

I'd want to live, or even shift the plough

along the furrows, only allow weeds

to rise and grow upon the fields until

they fell to entropy at last, the poems

forgotten, rotting, dust, and nothing more.

.................................