“We are the protectors, not the protesters. We are peacefully defending our land and our…
Which came first? The falling from the sky
or the longing to return to it?
You lifting yourself toward me,
all heated skin and beyond, that look of ravage haunt
and need and the briefest sighting of you spirit bared.
You told me you dreamt of this moment between us and
woke from the dreaming in a terror. Your eyes caving
like the lightning field the moment before the strike.
I sleep with the light on. Even still,
my body does not claim itself to ease in full dark,
the gathers in the corners, the closed bedroom door.
My father’s only perpetual complaint, all my life:
Dora, turn the damn light off before you fall asleep.
So vehement that my middle brother used to pull the gripped book
from my fingers in my deepest sleep and set it on the bedside table
before he himself turned the light off and walked down the long
hallway, alone, in the breathing dark.
Which came first? The outcast or the belonging?
Stones skimming lake water in concentric circles
or the one hawk above watching it from the broader view?
He told me once, some stupid Friday wild-hair night
that Ray Carver might have written about,
me running pool tables against League shooters
who stared at my ass after I took their money:
McQuaid, your face has the look of a wound.
And then he stood there, long arms hanging at his sides,
unmoving across the distance between us until I placed,
gently, the pool cue on the green felt, my hands ribbed
with cobalt chalk like outward veins, and I walked out,
stood in the parking lot alone, dragon breathing bone cold,
looking at the January snow reflecting all that blue back up.
Which came first: The light we carried within us
or the darkness that birthed us?
You told me once: Children born in lightning are beyond us all,
their faces always turned upward to the sky, beyond us.
Match pop and flare; your face illuminated.
And you, yourself, looking upward.
©2014 Dora E. McQuaid
Originally published in Gargoyle Literary Journal #64, 2016. Now available.
With my great gratitude to Editor Richard Peabody, for another inclusion in the long-running maverick Gargoyle Magazine.