Stephen Lackaye

In the Orchard

Fascinated once more by the tyranny of trees
arrested in their ranks graduating from the valley,
and by the groundfog that imparts a sense of mystery
to air too warm to be foreboding, too cool for the work
of a dream. I once watched in a similar air, in similar
fascination, a woman drop a gray, silk scarf
from a fourth floor balcony. Such a dramatic gesture!
Like some noble flag in abjection, I saw it fall through
eddies of shade, through the reading lamp light of lower floors,
before melting into the rain-darkened pavement at my feet.
This is where the moon tracks sorrowful over the trees;
the orchard grows aloof, conspiratorial in its rustling.
There’s blame to this landscape, or guilt, for sentiment
or tyranny. The streets had emptied into the dinner halls,
all that smoke and music smoldering behind doors,
and the hand that had dropped the scarf, lit with the same
unjust albedo of the apple boughs raking down the fog,
climbed into the hair of the man who stood beside her,
though all I’d thought I’d seen changed suddenly
when he grabbed her by the throat. This happens
all the time now. I get lost in common questions,
watching romantic notions fail, or perhaps, in their ways,
succeed: I cannot shake the memory of how closely they held,
without kissing, those two figures on the balcony, their mouths,
each one breathing in the poisons the other one expelled.

Stephen Lackaye has his MSc from the University of Edinburgh, and his MFA from the Johns Hopkins University. Other poems have appeared recently in Boxcar Poetry Review, Conte, Crab Orchard Review, Grist: The Journal for Writers, Los Angeles Review, and RHINO. He lives in Beaverton, Oregon, where he works for Powell’s Books and teaches online for Northeastern University.