‘Two Arias’ by James Dunnigan

On the Hill by Rome Boulevard 

You, leaning by me in the bowing grass
at noon, late summer, on a yellow hill
telling me love has become like the face of the night
             and you do not remember where the bikepath is
             and have forgotten to put on your shoes
             and circling your arms
around the nape-knot of a birch’s neck
             say that you loved me once. 

I have brought you as close to my heart as a seed is to soil
that raises it into a tangle of leaves,
cool and odorous the soil, sweeter the yielded grain,
and the wind moving under the branches of us
             will carry our dust and reflections
over the lakeshore rocks
             and over the road-veined hills
             and I don’t care anymore where they carry us. 

You lean beside me in the yellow grass
on noon’s late hill august and shadowless,
holding between you and your bending arms
the white face of the distant sun.
I know then all my nights and mornings will be yours
             and the days thereafter will warm to your countenance,
dawn, lend its brightness to your movements
             and the murmuring evenings borrow from your voice. 

I have shrouded my heart like a seed in the earth
that sun may never shine upon its sorrow
but the roots have grown deep at your urging
             with branches as soft as your arms;
                           their leaves, bright as your waking eyes;
                           their shade, at day, inviting as the night.


aaaaaaBrighthaired, in black,
you drift over long rows of fruit
and bags of earth and boxes—
Summer’s summer,
             whose shadow
             freshens the cherries,
wets the pavement weeds.

Like you I’m a worker in water and fire.
I nearly burnt down my apartment
leaving the propane on.
And when I shovel ice in at the fish store,
             I throw it exactly
             outside the counter.

Your hands command the things they touch.
I’ve never seen a person work so finely
             with buckets of garbage water
or carry a barbecue lighter more gently
             into the breathing gas.

aaaaaaaI don’t know which:
             to see or to be seen by you,
delights the evening crowds the most.
Even in your contempt you’re golden
letting us go with a smile I know is a smirk
although a smirk would be enough;
             a smile being enough for hope
and hope itself being a kind of smirk.

And when you give me back my change,
             drop two warm coins into my palm,
your hand, though it retreats from mine,
             drags its cool shadow down my arm.


JAMES DUNNIGAN is a graduate of McGill University. Author of The Stained Glass Sequence, he was the winner of the 4th annual Frog Hollow Chapbook Competition in 2018. His work has appeared previously in Maisonneuve Magazine and is forthcoming in CV2.

Copyright © 2019 by James Dunnigan. All rights reserved.