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Leavetaking / July 4

By Barbara Sweeney

There is too much light in this room.
It is too bright to see anything
but the dark table.
You come in through the door
as if hundreds of years
would make no difference.

          Picture of author and friends
          in the sand box up their eyes in pies
          huddled under doll carriages
          for shelter against warriors who are
          (really) boys with stitches in their heads
          and mothers arranging
          marriages.

I saved everything to show you.
I kept the blood in jars.

          Picture of magic happening to the author
          at the hands of anarchists, atheists:
          new light on literature, certain
          knowledge of explosives, knives
          and the twilight color of
          hands and teeth and mouths.

The house was green with red chairs and a blue car in the driveway.
Days were filled with artichokes and plums; nights held
wooden matches up to wicks.
Then somehow, I lost you
like laundry on the road
strewn off to the side
with dead animals, hub caps
all the usual things.

          You began believing public clocks.
          I began taking advice from the dead.

Picture of author
in the bath
unmatched by normal contours.
No one is waiting
for her hair to dry
(choir of angels)
          This summer night all wet with honey and tears.
          This night all alive with gunpowder.

Appeared in The Malahat Review;
Number 52, October 1979