Kevin Cantwell

The Wooden Trap

The held cry of a hawk makes Thomas Hardy think
to make her believe it's a newborn's cry she hears.
Milk wets through her blouse. The other women know
at once. That's chapter one. How it starts
to grow while above his head the cumuli
accumulate. The August fields waver beyond
the privet hedge. He's given up the novel
for poetry. The women look at each other.
One counts out change on a plank counter.
That's that she says. Then exposition's drift
to flashback: How a horseshoe loosens;
how when leading the horse the master returns.
Not angry, only to get it done right.
How she presses under the eaves of the shed
with him while the afternoon rain comes down
so hard they are nearly soaked anyway.
The editorial omniscient bites his tongue.
Innocent as it goes. The scent of windfall
rises up through the apple tree from the ground.
Some of the leaves bronze even now. There's no
turning back but that's getting ahead of ourselves.
There's Hardy. Shoes a disgrace. Canvas gaiters
undone and one foot on top of the ladder
where it narrows at the highest rung, the worn wood
twice the width of a stirrup, and one foot
in the crotch of a limb. He has it all
worked out. She's in another country where rumor's made
a place for her. Where's the little one?
they ask, but she presses past them into the lane,
It serves her right but no one says it
so that she hears. A limb tumbles through the green
cloud of foliage. And then another. He cuts it back
to make it bear, though a neighbor's stopped to tell him
it's ill-advised so late in the season.
She finds a place for herself as a domestic
until the governor says a girl's come back.
They'll have to let her go. It's dusk. The clouds
go pink to shell. He folds the little saw.
The ladder widens to its base, A trick of perspective
also that lures the gopher into the wooden box
he's set in its tunnel, the hole which looks
like an exit, the end of the tunnel, daylight,
but smaller than its head and those footsteps
on the earth above, which pause and anticipate
her every turn, and block her escape
with a garden fork plunged into the lyric dark.
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