“The Eighth of July,” “Last Rites” and “York County History Lesson”

Poetry by Valerie Little

“The Eighth of July,” “Last Rites” and “York County History Lesson”

The Eighth of July

I knew that on your birthday

you would awaken in arms of unversed devotion

and I would wake up face down in

the cushion of bogs

a scythe of acidic sedges

and

saturating gales of Wuthering Heights.

Decomposition

loiters

on

the

heath

though I threw us, corpus fractum saeva vale

into the galaxy dusted dirt

nine monthsa lifetime ago.

The decay of yearning keeps an inconsistenttempo

Adagio affettuoso colla voce

Presto agitato, e deciso

Dissection of essence, a heart’s perforation,

these arias are performed a piacere

with the afflictive ease of dissonance, lacerating my vulnerable ribcage,

lungs without breath, vascular organ beating with musical indeterminacy.

You have healed nicely, yes?

You, master with the suture needle,

no peaty glimmer of me on your skin,

dewy fingerprint evidence of holy communion

that we fed to each other last year as zealots.

Silently study the menu, my gifts of foolish grace

and choose a favorite.

Books exchanged

Asking to hold my hand under the night sky

Searching for your illegally parked car

Watching some dystopian pictures

and me undress by street lights

My familiar heat on you while we slept

or didn’t.

Tender breath of resurrection

a loyal consultant in your reconstruction of

this exquisite architecture that I would never get to live in.

When she kisses you goodnight

remember

remember

that our lips first met just before midnight so it was still on your birthday.

Last Rites

Timor mortis conturbat me

But, we’ll be forever this age

37 and 42

now that we’ve had the last

smile word

laugh embrace

kissravish

midnight morning

I still synthesize you

into my cityscape matins

headphones on before dawn

block early morning noise

draw attention inward

for eye has not seen

ear has not heard

save my eyes so I can recognize you are looking for

me save my ears so I can hear my name in your heart

some citysome streetsome day

Honey lips part without sin, act as final anointing

saving us and our body breaks

as viaticum for another book of life endured

apart, like before, like next lifetime.

Yet on the floor of my room

I paper over those who caution me

and whisper my intercessions-

as it was in the beginning

is not now and never shall be-

I want youmidnightmorning

on summer’s sunlit grass

at the top of Mount Rainier

in the coastal forests of Canada.

You are the unfathomable burn of exploding stars

CallistoEnceladusTitaniaTritonCharon

Quiet cadence of urban darkness

Liminal visions of the sea floor.

Lux aeterna luceat nobis.

York County History Lesson

Right by PA-441 stood the white and weathered Star Barn,

a landmark on the road from my grandparents’ one-story rambler.

After the unsown farm was sold piece by piece,

making room for townhomes and the evangelicals,

it was raised again in Lancaster County—

a profitable wedding venue.

I wait for my father’s milky blue eyes

until he smiles at me in the rearview mirror.

I hear Rudolph’s jingle bells, so close your eyes.

My eyes are like his, except darkened by gray.

I press my cheek against cold glass

fixed on the palladium midnight of Christmas Day.

In the churchyard, a quarter century later,

I sit knees akimbo on the manicured emerald hill,

drinking a Coke, fussing with the flowers, polishing the headstone.

An olio of futile questions spill out.

Every

why

what

could I

did I

and how

tumble into the soft, sun-warmed earth.

I should have had you cremated.

Not much better for the environment,

but you appreciated thriftiness.

I could cross my forehead with you every Ash Wednesday.

Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

About the Author

Valerie Little

Valerie Little studied creative writing and music at Pennsylvania State University. She has been published in Kalliope, Apertures, Naming Hope (anthology), Sheila-Na-Gig, River Heron Review, and in an upcoming 2019 poetry anthology by Duck Lake Books. Professionally, she is a violist and orchestra librarian with the Minnesota Orchestra.