Hard to tell the birds from their voices
in the darkening field where hemoglobin
clouds drift low to the earth, bleeding
along their underbellies, lungless in summer.
What makes a geography if not memory
and mud? We try to decipher the black
wings rumoring in the distance. We imagine
this is the first thought or dream, the grass with
its manifold hands reaching out, the surgeon
of twilight cutting into the torso of day,
spreading the ribs to expose the original body.
Here is the first gesture: our deadhead
of moon drifting windswept as a dandelion.
Field Guide at Dusk
It will not do. This weak-willed light slipping
from the grass, pale as hands folded on a chest.
No breeze to animate the hickory leaves,
to ripple the surface of the creek.
Just the fixed body of summer—the dimming
ghosts of the milkweeds and brambles,
tall as a boy’s shoulder, tall as a man’s waist.
Call it another covenant of evening: to feel the grass
unspool around us as we walk. To whisper
close against our bodies. This coven of bats
lifting in the evening air, as though pieces of the earth
have given way. The sound of the hinged wings
like a kind of short-sightedness: let the noise of it
carry across our field and no farther. This myopia
of evening: darkness gathering by our feet,
pooling around our legs, the world vanishing
from the bottom up. So much is lost like this.
To imagine our creek as a snake wending
through a field, creating this rut or runnel
as it muscles on its belly. This creek
and its fur of grass: some creature forming
itself from the night sky. To walk here
blindfolded by the darkness, until there is
only the grass against our bodies, the ghostly
hands of something springing from the earth.
Say two crows at dusk in an auburn sky.
But which is the augury of which? Or then
a cottonmouth slipping like ripe fruit into the reeds.
Our ribs feeling as hollow as a stream bed.
As though there is nothing else: just this excavated
dullness. The tongue and mouth like small,
decaying animals. And the crows, no longer
in their bodies in the darkness, filling the air
with cries that ripple like small waves along
a water’s surface, a last breath. We formed
ourselves from mud and blood and spittle. From an old
ceiling of sky. The broken spine of ridge coupling
with swollen clouds. The bitternut hickory shedding
its sorcery of leaves into the stream. And so the stars
bobbing like body parts amid a dim ocean of clouds.
Until there is nothing left, not even the crows
darting through the air like dreams. You sleepwalk
into it. The moon sealing itself to the lip of the earth.
Doug Sutton-Ramspeck (writing under the name Doug Ramspeck) is the author of six collections of poetry and one collection of short stories. His most recent book of poems, BLACK FLOWERS (2018), is published by LSU Press. Other recent books include THE OWL THAT CARRIES US AWAY (2018), winner of the 2016 G. S. Sharat Chanda Prize for Short Fiction. His poems and short stories have been published by literary journals that include The Kenyon Review, Slate, The Georgia Review and The Southern Review. He is a two-time recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award.