Spring 2006

Rita Mae Reese


Rita Mae Reese Rita Mae Reese's poetry has received a Discovery/The Nation award and appeared in The Southern Review, Verse Daily, Shenandoah, and Mid-American Review. She is currently a Wallace Stegner fellow in fiction.
Flannery, Are You Grieving?    Click to hear in real audio

after "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child"
             by Gerard Manley Hopkins

With the wolf's teeth sunk firmly
in your organs, his jaws working
at your heart all night long,
you stop to read Hopkins:  
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?

You drag the typewriter to the hospital
and proudly report that the doctor
says that though you can't work, you can write fiction.
You take the pages of "Parker's Back"
and write the final revisions by hand.
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

You write brief notes to friends,
send the story to Betty in lieu
of a letter. Your eyes are nearly swollen shut.
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder.

You said the tumor had to go
or you did. And now you know
it was both. Alone in your room,
you might have been able to laugh
at that thought, just once.
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

A man in a white suit is walking down the corridor
and you will be turned over to him.
You know he started walking toward you
the moment you were born. Your panic rises.
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:

Your kidneys fail and you slip into a coma,
at last crossing over into that province of joy,
no longer a stranger, trading your traitorous body
to test Teilhard's theory of the evolving God.
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

I read your last letter slowly,
sixty-seven exhausted words
from Tarfunk to Raybat.
I am sunk in a sorrow that lasts for days.
How many times will I turn to that last page?
Each time knowing as if for the first time:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.




Rita Mae Reese: Poetry
Copyright © 2006 The Cortland Review Issue 31The Cortland Review