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Early Hour

In the early hour.

In the hour of copper.

In the secret minutes

coiled around wooden spools

and scrawled into the sill-dust

beneath our open window.

In this room lit up

like the throat-latch

of a horse, like sea foam

under the breeze of a black moon.

You are asleep, the dingo

collapsed between us,

the shadows across your stomach

umber-flecked and swimming

toward some vague memory

of blue that the early hour

has wrung from its hair.

Your breath smells of farriers’ hammers,

of April spreading its sheer fabric

among the first blooms

of the dogwoods.

The edge of the flood plain

is a red crescent

and you shimmer

like a lost axe head in the creek.

When starlight becomes a flange

for the motion of no thought,

when the whereabouts

of the azaleas

become uncertain,

the outline of your face

is sky-written in the black loam

of the thunderheads.

When Cygnus scrapes his iron beak

against the rafters,

when the hidden cathedrals

in each whitecap

slice across the river,

when the fourth dimension

of the dingo’s skull

fills with green light,

when a bucket of sparks

empties onto the mantle-dark

shoulders of this early hour,

you become the early hour.

You become water

dressing up as the opposite

of bone and rags,

you become an island

filling with reeds,

the shore wind repeating itself

and forgetting where it lives,

the sound of two feathers

crossing one over the other

among threads of dust.

You sail past the dead

with their saffron-yellow teeth,

their gristmill jaws,

and their wings clipped back

to callused nubs.

In this early hour

I hear a rustling

in the dogwoods,

the sound of a table

being set, a deck of cards

slid across

the crushed lip

of its box.

I hear the rail yard

draw an arrow

to the edge of our country—

and though there are no trains,

a few dogs run mad beside them

through the tall,

impossibly blue grass

as you drift within your body

and into an hour as nameless

as the stone heart of a plum.

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Michael McGriff from the library

Copyright © Michael McGriff
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Published in Michael McGriff Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.