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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sisters

Friend, have you ever looked into the fire’s radiance?
Have you witnessed the element up close?

What I’ve seen is buried deeper than the shards
that severed the floor with the flames’ ranting shadows,

deeper than the first flush of the land’s juvenescence
(for it was shallow and frost-killed), the only scents

those of ice and ash, no musky clover or apples—
deeper than summer roots or creek-wracked stones.

There in the night-delirious escape down the stairs,
hearing my old man call for us, the roof roaring to splinters—

I saw the confused yawns of my dying sisters,
the flames so loud their yells fell through the beams,

blazing; their screams turned to rattle and rictus,
teeth and the spindle-wraiths, charred to spinsters

for the mud to take and worms to harness:
Tell me, brother, have you stood high in the mountains

and watched the stars spin over meadows, dead farms
where old airs sear and douse the tongue with silence?

  • William Wright is the series editor of the multivolume Southern Poetry Anthology (Texas Review Press) and the assistant editor of Shenandoah. His newest collection of poems, Tree Heresies, is forthcoming from Mercer University Press.