Friday, April 8, 2011

Songbird and Candles

Nothing to see outside the boundaries.
Harper Lee

After the mocking bird
stopped singing,
people asked --

Where did she go?
Does she still write?

I stayed mute
and mellowed further
into womanhood.

Sometimes I made
a pilgrimage
to that stone convent
on the hill.

I bought candles
from the nuns who billowed
along the portico
like a curtain
draping the ruins of Bath.

I loved the white flow
of their garments
and found the same grace
in the silk linen
veiling my own tub.

There, I spent hours
behind the world
soaking with lit tapers
and washing off
the tom boy, the changeling
who had taken the place
Of Jean-Louise.

The beeswax burned
softly and slurred
into a throat of amber
where my best words
and impulses
melted down
to a history. Prayers

for new inspiration
failed. The sainted brides
mixed no holy magic
in their craft. Their honeycombed
vespers were only
flaming wick and tallow.

Still, I listened, listened
for the mocking bird
but feared success
would kill his song

and leave this southern woman
adrift, mourning him and her own
fledgling voice.

Note -- The painting is by American artist, Steve Hanks, entitled, "woman in a tub".

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