THOMAS BATES

 

Bertha's Hollow

We have decided to amputate this thing,
the long, black trunk with its magnificent bend
now gourded out to winter,
the brittle, split shell that threatens to crack and kill
our children on some summer holiday.

A spot has been cleared in the field behind the old house
stuffed with relatives interned for the weekend
come to watch the axes broken out and sent against
one seasonally beautiful life.

The winter sun is brutal and anemic,
it sheds the clouds and throws its sick light
like goose feathers hanging from the sky.
This thing we are cutting is umbilical,
some branch that fills the world up.


Sources Of Knowledge

This river won't say when
it started. I know.
Two thousand years ago or so
some curious Moses struck a rock
with an aspen branch
he had whittled down to a neat point.
People say it was a serpent's tooth,
that the rock was a forbidden tree,
and all this river knowledge,
but I am too young to remember.

Things I do remember:

falling asleep in a pew,
head resting on my mother's lap,
cold and full of God like Mary's,
what must have been an awful penetration
when the spirit struck and hollowed out
her virgin body, sharpening the boy;

lying still among aspens
on a Sunday afternoon, late April,
carving a stick against a leg of a stone bridge
so the sap leaks out,
listening to the river,
quiet while a pretty girl walks near in a thin dress,
passes right over me.
I look up and see the blood.