ISSUE 33
August 2006

Scott Challener

 

Scott Challener This marks an author's first online publication Scott Challener is currently enrolled in the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He is also pursuing his M.A. in Spanish at Middlebury College. He works as a freelance writer and literary translator, and teaches in the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program at Boston University.
The Darkness    


Until the lamp's rectangular frame
was wrenched from its fixture above the bed;
until the hot bulb shattered in its socket;
until darkness came—
he hit her.

Like a splinter of itself, the darkness came through darkness,
through the chokeweed that split the asphalt;

through the cragged reaches of the apple tree
moist with rot, already hemorrhaged
beneath the clear bark,
                                    scuttling with beetles,

already beginning to conform
to the sickness he cut it down for;

through the paisley-curtained windows
the darkness came through darkness, like a splinter of itself,
and scattered.
 

The Telling    Click to hear in real audio

I.

It was
the month of dying—

the daffodils went first.
Then the crocuses
burst.

The sunflowers hung
down dark, glowering down.  

Rose petals rusted
on the hoods of cars parked in the driveway,
beneath wiper blades, in radiators—
they filled the grillwork.

The apple blossoms
bore no apples,

all summer
I found bettles' backs
in the tall crabgrass,

in the tangled clumps of mint and wild chive,
in the boiled crusts of red clay,
in the dark swarming sogs—
soft skeletons the wind took away.


II.

The air was musty
in my father's workshop,
where my mother did the laundry
and smoked, where my father
no longer returned
except for the planter
he set among the nuts and bolts he saved
for years, and sorted,
and placed in mason jars: nails
here, screws here, lugs
here. A bony film
accumulated
over mold, over sawdust;
under the precise light
the glowy webs of leaves grew
out of the cold topsoil.
Behind the vice grip left open
like an unhinged jaw:
                                 winter blossoms


III.

From the yard where my mother and father
spent Sundays kneading earth, forever
planting bulbs, I watched

the sunflower calyxes
roll down the open road
like chariot wheels.

I watched the weeding fingers,
the uprooting thumb, the calloused forefingers,
yank stalks from the soil.

I watched the dandelions that survived
scatter their gray-starred brains
into burrs of light

and lay their thin cosmos down.

These were the seeds of spring.

 

Digitalis    Click to hear in real audio


Flower that my father loves, loves
even in name: purple foxglove,
flower of death. Loves
the flower for its beauty, loves
the leaf because its blood
can kill or save in the same
heart flutter, the same arrest;
the bloom instilled that over-
comes, sprung from dust.
The heart that gives and cannot give enough.

He breathes in death
from the ragged fringe,
his broken body straightens,
he holds a moment the breath within.
Even as it was held it was taken away.

 

 

Scott Challener: Poetry
Copyright ©2006 The Cortland Review Issue 33The Cortland Review