“Grace” and Other Poems, by Maura High

GRACE

Some will not eat,
and some have nothing—a stick or a stone,
a tube in the arm or gut
(Lord, have mercy).

For this food
there was rain enough 
and enough sun,
insects died in untold numbers
as did the less resilient
weeds and seedlings
(Christ, have mercy).

Hours were logged, loads tallied
by planters, cultivators, harvesters,
operators of front-end loaders, truck drivers,
all more or less happy, more or less
skillful in work and in living
(Lord, hear our prayer).

Hunger keeps coming back
like chickweed among the stones,
a desire like any other,
to be, now and hereafter.

ONE FOR THE POT

Lately, I have forgotten
how to count single things,

this teapot, for instance.

There’s my grandmother’s 
glazed brown pot inside it, 

dark as tea leaves, its ambiguous

scents of thirst and comfort.
And inside that, Assam, all of it, 

highlands and terraces. Darjeeling, 

Ceylon, spice islands and trade winds
and all their stories, rising 

in the steam like genies. 

What would they have wished for, 
the women who picked the leaf tips,

the first flush, second flush; 

and the men who rolled the leaves 
and raked them?

What do I wish for, when

I put the kettle on, and listen?
For now, just this: 

to be here, watching the pot. 

MAN AMONG BLACKBERRIES

As cemeteries go, it was pleasant, 
with its yew trees and rough-cut
grass. What grief there’d been

among the headstones 
had long since passed.
But still there was 

that unquiet quiet
among the ranks of the dead,
and a sense that the ground

was deeded forever to them 
and the absolute.
I felt the life in my own step,

the skin and muscle 
of my own body, so the man
frightened me, stripped as he was

to his waist and doing something
in the bushes. When he turned, 
I saw a stick, and halted.

Then saw he was just picking blackberries,
leaning into the brambles, careful
of their prickle and scratch

as he gathered sweetness
to himself, treat, memories
of earlier foragings.

The birds twittered, as if
nothing else was about to happen, 
and nothing did.

Maura High was born in Wales. As a child, she moved with her family from country to country, and then taught in secondary schools in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States. She now lives and works, as an editor and translator, in North Carolina. A chapbook, The Garden of Persuasions, was published by Jacar Press, and other poems have appeared in online and print journals and anthologies.

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