by Nathaniel Perry

The stench of septic rising over a camp.
Two roses in a vase.
                                          The simple space
between two houses, half-lit by a streetlamp

and overwhelmed by an air of ivy and pine.
And of course the coming rain,
                                                                the heavy stain
of it in the air, like mud, like wine.

The memory of the field down past the septic:
the itchgrass, onionweed,
                                                    thistle, the witchweed.
Arc of the roses against snow, the cryptic

drunkenness of the snow behind the window
—there is more than glass,
                                                      something tenebrous
in it. The houses sure, assured, like slow

rivers inside the pines. The air unsure,
unhinged. The memory,
                                                 hinged. To be
touched by it, as by nothing less or more

than rain or grass brushing the knee, to sense
the snow beyond the snow
                                                     —and still not know
it—is a perfect burden, a present tense.

NATHANIEL PERRY’s poems and translations have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, West Branch, Cincinnati Review, Salamander and elsewhere. The editor of lyric and The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, he is Assistant Professor of English at Hampden-Sydney College in rural southside Virginia.