Matthew Kilbane

Here, where the gravel path
swerves from the railway
and takes the hill’s rise easy, loping long
switchback arcs,
             the openhanded wind, summer-stiff
             with pond sour,
             is scrabbling at empty sky
             with the grain-stoned ears of Ludlow’s wheat
and shredding my voice, an old flag,
to ribbons.

                         Over there,
the half-toppled dovecote rides
the far white crest of the Kipton granary
             like a fermata,
             like a query in continental philosophy:
            do human adults
             at some point come to regret
not having been born
who don’t outgrow
their streaming babble, and never learn
to barb it all, to ruin it with meaning?

             Instead, they turn out love songs lifelong
             in infinite recombinations,
             spiritless puffs of bone and drab feather
             hung out on sun-smeared branches
like padlocks spinning in warble,
never to open, not to each
choiring other, not to themselves.
Like alarm clocks stripped of their nervy faces;
             like little faces whose features sprung wings and went—

             I have to believe you’ve written
             one new song since last
             I heard from you
for each and every mile yawning
between us now, a rotten country
if one loves (as we do)
beautiful things.

                         Exactly here, in 1891,
             an engineer’s frozen watch
             forgot four short minutes
             and two trains, Toledo’s “Accomodation”
             and a US Mail, collided
with such force a million
pummeling fists of air kissed out
all the glass on Main Street.
Startled roots let slip
             the Ohio earth from their grip. For weeks
             birds refused
             to trust their branches, floating like shape notes
             in high silent flourish above a town
at pains to hold the memory:

one final moment before the crash,
deep winter, weak light, a stillness
just beyond recall.

             Such are the birth pangs, the history says,
             of synchrony. I like regret,
             its grounding heft, but I hadn’t yet wept
             for this latest minor tragedy—
I’m less my birdliness,
though not less this: deep winter,
weak light falling through the bones
of an old house on College Avenue,
             still beyond recalling,
             your song winding up the hall


Matthew Kilbane is originally from Cleveland, OH and is a graduate of Purdue University’s MFA program. He currently lives in Ithaca, NY, where he is completing a PhD in English at Cornell University,