Cura Animarum Outside Canaan, West Virginia

by Deborah Pope

A thin pelt of winter trees
bristles the rim of hills,
encircles the front-crimped fields,
crosscut by creeks
in their slow, black honey
and the echoing cord of road.
In the distance, a solitary combine
churns its givens of earth,
the skeletal wheel clutching
late corn in under the sky’s milky lid.
Husks of teasel and rusted candles
of sumac choke the deep washes
where scrub pines jut like mealy drumsticks.
In a clearing, beside a residue
of sheds, whitewashed stones
spell carefully out     Repent.
Beyond, a low dwindle of stones
descends a family slope
before they fall from sight
in the next turn, and the next,
the hollows closing,
disclosing, in a flung rag
of birds, the untracked veer
of our way.

Deborah Pope has published three books of poems, Fanatic Heart, Mortal World, and Falling Out of the Sky, all from LSU Press, as well as one volume of criticism, A Separate Vision: Isolation in Contemporary Women’s Poetry (LSU, 1984). She edited the collection Ties That Bind: Essays on Mothering and Patriarchy (University of Chicago Press, 1990). Currently, she teaches at Duke University.

Poem from Falling Out of the Sky (LSU Press, 1999).