DEFINITION IN THE WOODS
Wanted to linger in the flat winter
alone at the property line,
where barbed wire twists irrelevant
through the pines. Wanted to merge
into the speckled landscape
like the fine lacework of roots
turning by touch through dim earth,
to feel that energy wick up my legs.
Wanted oneness in the nameless sorority
of trees and creeping lichen. Almost—
But then, you break in with your body,
and my body
turns woman again. My skin distinct
from grey bark and rudely aware
of all the secret pink places
you’ve kissed me.
How I hate you for a heartbeat,
before I look up to see your face
stinging sweet with cold
and recognition. Your pupils open wide
to drink in the sight of me,
and here is this other beauty I wanted.
PRAISE TO THE NIGHTJAR
Clean as a bell, its evening note
coaxes us out of our bright kitchen
to the edge of the woods.
We balance on the old crossties
that mark the split between garden
and forest, and tip our chins back,
the better for listening.
We don’t even try to see
the speckled wing of it—
the song might as well issue from the pines—
but the bird is near enough we can tell
it’s not a whippoorwill, but a cousin,
Chuck Will’s Widow.
Praise to anything named for the song it sings.
Praise to the summer dark,
pupils dilating to drink it all in,
my black eyes growing blacker.
This close, the woods remind us
we should be a little scared.
Sundown bristles against the skin.
Still, it’s unclear—should we stay still
and hushed on the rim of it, or dash wildly out
into the forest for the night?
Praise to the nightjar crying out
Here I am, here I am,
still so hidden in the understory
as to be a voice disembodied,
secret as a pair of women
threading through the trees at night.
Aza Pace’s poems appear or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Copper Nickel, Mudlark,The Florida Review Online, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. She is the winner of an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Houston and is a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of North Texas.