Shelby Stephenson

Peas-porridge simmers in lentils.

I went down to the valley to pray.
In depression’s depth I heard your paces pick up dust.
Tears of clowns waited in the wings.
I cleaned out the gutters twice during the fall.
The wind blew more leaves as if out of a cavern.
Why do we rattle and spill?

Paper whips into Linda’s Garden and snags the beauty bush,
a volunteer seeded in a corner of the foundation of the tobacco-curing barn—
the Smith Barn—had these little burners with cupolas on top:
early autumn I’d lie on the warm ground of that barn at four in the morning
and wait for my older brother
(we had to take out the tobacco and get ready to prime more).
The paper in the bush looks like a bird,
a whispering commencement of sounds.

I pass you on your walk.
Please let me turn your garden to rest.
You question your direction and dodge a caress, indecision closing in again,
something out of nothing the day clears as something not yet born.
I feel your body yielding.

You are the girl in the bathing suit.
The reflection of the water shimmies in your eyes.
You walk along the seashore, separate from the waves.

I lose you in billows of uncertainty.
You snuggle your toes in the sand, resisting doom.
Highs and lows curve naughtiness out of zero.