Steve Scafidi


Swung like a bat
    like that and
that, swung by
    their feet they
swing through
    air and smash
against the tall
    innocent tree,
the white bark
    growing this
dark patch.

Simple sycamore
    in Cambodia
against which
    the infants
were dashed
    in 1973
knocking all
    breath out
from the slow
    green body
of the world.

Simple tree
    against which
this continued
    all morning
beside the river
    just going
as the mothers
    clutched nothing
and held back
    not one word
not one sound

heading out from
    the furthermost
reach of who
    they were —
also murdered
    in a moment
coming on
    all such sounds
beside the river
    drowning out
the other noises

the soldiers made
    against which
tonight the tree
    and the river
still together
    endure somehow
without grief
    without memory
of that morning,
    or any morning
among our kind.


My new baby coos in sleep and startles
          suddenly throwing her arms out as I drag
this pencil across the page and she is
                    like some tropical spider just fallen

from the canopy overhead where the stars
          have all disappeared completely from
the night and the sun might swoop and dive
                    in a crazy-eight shape for how rarely

I look up from her body that is perfect
         in its sleep and in its waking which is
a difference of one gauzy inch
                    as her eyes flutter open and look at me

mildly amused and so this is that turning of
         the page, that absolute surprise of days I am
lucky enough to recognize and nothing else
                    before is real anymore and here comes

the hippopotamus of my new life gingerly
         taking the stairs to the front door breathing
fog on the glass and staring in at me
                    now with its tender yellow eyes

and here comes the magnificent silence
         of knowing everything is different now
and here comes the gold arbitrary blooms
                     of daffodils in the yard and soon

the undertaker comes and the Periodic Table
         of the grave and here is the fragile
idea of love I can hardly think of
                      without getting up and watching

my new baby sleep in the disordered
         world that does not want us here
passing whatever comes our way
                    and so the muddy hippopotamus

who disagrees breaks down the door
         I hung on words and hope’s most
delicate breeze blows and anything is possible.
                    It seems it always was.

Steve Scafidi earned his MFA at Arizona State University and is the author of Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer (Louisiana State University Press, 2001). He is a cabinetmaker and lives in Summit Point, West Virginia.