The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Maxine Scates

The Story


The story had been everything,
the high wire act over

the bottle emptying, the ash tray filling,
the red ash falling and burning its spiral of time

into the table. I grew tired of it. I thought
it would miss me when I left. But, no matter,

it has gone on breeding its family of secrets
which will overtake itself again and again

because it is that strong, stronger
than any one of us. Sometimes when I miss it

I think it is like that horse standing by the fence
I thought was waiting for only me,

but the horse had its own life without me,
even if it did eye the rotting apples in my hands

before it trotted away. And sometimes I wonder
if, even though it was a story of failure,

I couldn’t leave it for so long because it was my story.
Now the moment I love most is the moment

when I walked away. I return to it as if it were a door
I am stepping through to the snake lying in the sun

when I pass at the same time each morning
in early autumn, to the pond slowly filling now

that the rains have returned, the maples and oaks
bare at its edge, the grasses waving a little

as the young dog wades in a little farther each day
until one day she will begin her swim to the other side.




MAXINE SCATES is the author of three books of poetry, Undone (New Issues 2011), Black Loam and Toluca Street, and co-editor, with David Trinidad, of Holding Our Own: The Selected Poems of Ann Stanford (Copper Canyon). Her poems have been widely published in such journals as AGNI, The American Poetry Review, Ironwood, The Massachusetts Review, The New England Review, Ploughshares, Plume and The Virginia Quarterly Review and have received, among other awards, the Starrett Prize, the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes.



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