The peacock’s shriek blistering the midnight air,
the roar they always claim mimics a train
rounding the bend. Hurricanes south and west,
though too distant to raise concern, but I wake
to the emperor bird crying murder again,
and Herself at the door, all frazzle and panic,
is saying, “The funnel is coming. His vengeance,
girl. We’ve got to barn the livestock and reach
the shelter,” but this time I answer, Animals
be damned, and stump to the stairs, my nightgown
shiny with sleep’s friction and now flowing.
In the flecking mirror: my motion’s a ghost.
Across the field, an apparition spits its voice.
I give one thought to the files of twined letters
and unfinished fictions, the Royal typewriter
with its twenty-six demons. Are there moments
when soul matters less than breath, and I imagine
the frayed pages of savage comedy all swirled
like a magician’s trick, the lame and the halt,
prophets and blessed dimwits all gone to chaos,
all plottery giving way to blather and howl.
In the final count, story is just another affliction,
the illusion some grand scheme is within our ken.
With the weather almost sideways, peach trees
losing their blooms, our modest garden shaking
like the Second Coming and the sentry bird gone
who-knows-where, I can hear the Ecclesiast whisper
Vanity, vanity! I have to laugh, till my Parent
pulls me underground and bolts the door. Scent
of clay and mold, decaying spores. Are we
both Persephone now? No lamp or candle,
her feeble prayers our only light in the hour
of our need. “Save us, Our Lady, whose very name
we adore.” Mother says the whirlwind is ever
trumped by the Word, so we listen for a clement
whisper and implore the First Mover to calm
our hearts. Genuflecting for all we’re worth,
we weep like river willows and vow to adore
meek Jesus, while the dark god outside swaggers,
hisses his gospel of annihilation and roars.
By R. T. Smith
Recipient of the 2013 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
Reprinted by permission of Louisiana Literature Press
from The Red Wolf: A Dream of Flannery O’Connor by R. T. Smith.
Copyright © 2013 by R. T. Smith.