HOW WE GOT HERE
One day the world was born
and on another day—after eons of fish and lizards,
and trees being the earth’s tallest buildings,
a boy woke up from the darkness of his mother.
Or at least that’s how Virgil imagines
he got here—tired from the first
nine months of travel, a born rambler.
He thinks of her sometimes come evening,
staring into the campfire’s oracle, wondering
if the pilot light in her heart stays on for him
or if it glimmered out long ago,
a firefly lost in the trees.
And when Virgil sleeps, he remembers being wild,
remembers his slim body covered with scales,
then feathers, then fur, his nose
searching moist earth for clues
that tether him again to that early story.
The pines called out for him, the spring, the orchards.
And when he wakes today, stirring
from his animal distance,
his yawn’s more like a growl
under the sky’s preposterous ocean,
while the fire hums, sending final sparks
VIRGIL SEES THE END OF THE WORLD
And the rivers, spellbound, stood listening—
brings him to this vision.
There’ll be a great burbling
from the middle of the river
where fish will start singing,
each with their own gleam
the sun paints over them,
gills trumpeting open
while bears stumble down
grabbing them from the air.
Only, the fish are townspeople
filling the bears’ hands
like loaves at the endtimes,
and those lumbering beasts
more like what waits to claim us
when we wash ourselves
in the calm Lethe of forgetting.
But Virgil will stay, neither living nor dead,
sitting at the dock between worlds, his feet
in that water turning cool with souls. He’ll find
a sparkle in his fiddle one more time to play us all out.
He’ll keep remembering, keep the bow rocking,
rosin clouds rising from what’s left,
strings humming down to darkness until
the bears are in the sky again, dipping for fish
in a river long gone dry.
Rebecca Macijeski holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has attended artist residencies with The Ragdale Foundation, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Art Farm Nebraska. She has also worked for Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry newspaper column, as an Assistant Editor in Poetry for the literary journals Prairie Schooner and Hunger Mountain, and is the recipient of a 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Poet Lore, Barrow Street, Nimrod, The Journal, Sycamore Review, Potomac Review, Storyscape, Fairy Tale Review, Puerto del Sol, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, and many others. Rebecca is Creative Writing Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Northwestern State University.
*Italicized portions of these poems come from David Ferry’s translation of The Ecologues of Virgil.