Lost for Words
Slugs trace odd glyphs on the concrete walk.
Grandma had us sprinkle table salt on her porch
to discourage any messages from the other side.
Mornings now, when fog’s suspension drags a sheet
across the world’s view, I cipher curlicues
for word from you. But perhaps slugs, like angels,
have no word for grief, leaving us
to draft every horrible script.
These last hard years, frost’s
innumerable marigold corpses, blackened rose petals
offered up by February’s unexpected thaw, draw
the slugs out from their dens beneath the steps.
(published here for the first time)
Rufus Skeens is a poet of elegy with a penchant for noticing those moments when the day grows thin and the worlds nudge closer to each other, exchanging flashes of dark light, or – maybe, maybe not – messages in the tracks slugs leave on a concrete walk. At the same time, Skeens never loses contact with the world around him, as evidenced in the precision and music of his language. No poet has a better instinct for the shape and texture of words in the mouth.
Mostly, I want to let the poem speak for itself. It does not need my help. But I have to say that I love the ending. Understated and quiet, in touch with the earth, there is still an eerie stir of spirits from the underworld going on in the shadows beneath those steps.
Another poem online:
Red River Review