The ash trees sag
in the hourless rain
like weeping mothers

pulled earthward by their grief
while we in this house in Mississippi
go on doing what we imagined

as children we would do
at this age
we are a joyful grouping

many of us unfamiliar
but in the late hours
when twilight is forgotten

when even stars and moonlight
are obscured
by the rainclouds we cannot see

we practice our joy
while whiskey warms the room
it seems

or at least our battered sorrows
it is enough almost
to defeat this day’s soft drain

and the ones I am with
are maybe not my friends
are maybe not old hearts

to cling to in the failing year
but they are something
they are something to me

in a night when rain falls
past the open windows
filtered by the ash trees

before it reaches earth
oh quiet earth
I thought that they were

something to me
until the husband
of the one whose house it is

some hulking barrel of a man
comes forward
from a hidden corner

of the night and then
it is my voice
that gives away

what I did not know
was secret
A fag he mutters

loud enough for them to hear
they are silent
he watches as they look

inside themselves
as though the answer
to this question he is asking them

will be discovered
in the ice cubes they consider
You need to go

he says
and they lean back
in their chairs

to let me pass
and I am hurried out
into a midnight sky

where still the ash trees sag
I hear through the window
after the door is closed

that they are laughing
now that I am gone
oh quiet earth

you have welcomed me
into your sodden arms
while all the speaking creatures

you created
cast me from their midst
oh quiet earth

my old dry heart
is yours

Jacob Newberry