(Pure Julia/Unsplash)



     From a poem by Fulke Greville

I seek aid: My grandmother’s gilt
clock that plays Greensleeves
now fills me with dread; can you
muffle its sharp-toothed chime?
Dab my forehead with rose water,
sing me a song I never heard before,
tell me something to me make me laugh
and rest content—a state unknown.
My thoughts run races, mousey
and fearful, scattering to the edges
of the autumn lawn. Leave them
to the raptors, now. Shame
turns out to be a choice, a wire taut
on the trap we set ourselves, of use until it’s not.


I would be the dove, tucked
in the heavy arbor, listening to the rain
tap the leaf lobes. I would be the bear,
stupid beneath the snow.

Say a syringe came to tease me with relief,
offering my stretch of earth: for this,
I would pay even the jewels of poetry.
But bribes don’t work.

Did I agree to this? The sages tell us
that blindness in the morning
may give way to sight by evening....

How they lie. We know only a little more
than the animals, and it is pain. This life
that demands, with every sun-up, to be lived.

Published in the July/August 2023 issue: View Contents

April Bernard’s latest collection, in which these poems appear, is The World Behind the World: Poems (Norton, 2023). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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