The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

David Havird

Les Mouches

 

After the cloudburst I follow the gravel path
to the garden. A concrete wall to my right
deflects the snarls of traffic. Thin woods to my left,
its leafy branches shading the path. From these
an occasional raindrop, one of them staining my sleeve.
Right as the cat-piss odor of boxwoods bites,
I spy through the trees a backside, black like mud.
The path then doglegs left, and there’s a woman
whom I must dodge. Now viewing Eve straight-on—
this black bronze Eve that lowers her head
and with one arm hiding her breasts raises the other,
hand to face palm outward, forefeeling the blow—
I picture the woman, a trim brunette
in slim black slacks, whose sallow complexion
was horribly pocked … as if the blow struck her
instead. The blow? A look that scars.


As Rodin’s Eve looks like black mud or tar,
there was about her features
an earth-emergent look, a clayeyness,
that makes me at first forget: Adam only it was
for whom God modeled clay; for Eve, carved bone.
Soon, however, I have in my mind
a bone-white Eve, like a marble antiquity,
whose perfectly oval face with chiseled features,
catching a look that puts her down,
grows lumpy, sallows, shading to russet—becomes
if not exactly clay to be kneaded and pinched,
something of earth: an apple, yes, of earth
with eyes like scars that bud and probe the dark.


I turn from Eve and have to squint.
The after-shower suffusion of sunlight hurts,
and there’s a thrilling scent, which piques the mind
with a fragrance from childhood: the zest
in clothes that dried in the sun.
Even after every house in the neighborhood, ours
included, boasted a dryer, my mother preferred
to hang the washing on backyard clotheslines—and did so
until new next-door neighbors with bird dogs laid
a concrete slab and erected a hurricane fence,
and up at the property line goes a kennel
breeding flies that speckle
the pillow cases and sheets,
those otherwise radiant whites
that billow, flap and snap,
rummaging high and low for wings.

 

 

 

DAVID HAVIRD is the author of two collections, Map Home (2013) and Penelope’s Design (2010), which won the Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize. His poems appear in many periodicals (including Agni, Hopkins Review, Shenandoah, and Yale Review), and anthologies (Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry among others). He teaches at Centenary College of Louisiana.

 

 

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