15 December, 2003Issue 3.1Creative WritingOriginal Poetry

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On the Side of Forgetting

Carmen Bugan

I

We stood in the main doorway

according to the custom of important days

(usually marked by the village priest)

with holy water dripping from dry basil

but now recorded in the slow turn of hinges):

Come back, you said, I will, I said.

You stored the coffers with my dowry

and we walked to the station before dawn.

The moon whitened the crossing of dirt roads

spread like open palms.

II

When I learned the new language

and abandoned the old one,

I practiced pronouncing new words

and felt new in their newness

but your knitted pullover always gives me away.

When leaves turned their backs in storms

I sat imagining that I was a child by the sea

whistling through a flute made of cornstalk.

Once I saw you in the crisscross of afternoon sunlight,

lighting a candle under stained glass—

a heart beating under the ribs of a city

you will never see.

The church orchestra practiced for Evensong

and something in me, like the breath released

from the throat of the flute escaped:

I mattered to no one there.

III

This morning I awoke to the sound

of birds inside of the yellow of gorse bushes,

the hands of hills are in the sea,

Tory island is a boat without sails.

You whisper to me from hawthorns and hazels,

the earth will remember you.

Your wooden cross appears to me

through the rain washing the cemetery.

I want to walk around your grave

three times, light incense and a candle

inside the rusted bottomless bucket

lodged in the earth next to your head.

Carmen Bugan‘s collection of poems, Crossing the Carpathians, will be published by Oxford Poets/Carcanet next October. She is a DPhil student at Balliol College, Oxford, writing on Seamus Heaney.