|James Scannell McCormick
(Drowned Girl Poem)
I thought of her out of, then under, water sieved
Dead by zebra mussels. In the black she grinned
Like a sheila-na-gig. If she hadn't panicked,
Beer-dizzy waves would have barely stroked
Her knees. A mouthful of the night lake, then
To the lake a mouthful: to her tight-lipped coffin,
Too, in the nave's mouth. That summer my uncle was
Working the wild garden at St. Robert's, red maple trees
And lilac gone native, where a plaque announces
Mass times and the names of my grandmothers—Agnes,
Hildegarde—gone bone-blue to heaven. One Saturday,
The old harvest-god's day, I helped. I was growing humility,
From humus, earth, clay, breathless dust. September
Was burning on, drought-brown. In the disgraceful cloister
Garden just bindweed thrived, shinnied up dried stalks of stella d'oros
To blow its tiny glass-white blooms. A window
Tilted open beneath the blue-slippered feet
Of Our Lady of the Assumption. Incense, and notes:
Funeral? Wedding. Will they hear the hedge clippers
Inside? wondered my uncle. No: the blessed hear
No more than the drowned. So on we worked, transplanted
Black-eyed susans and narrow phlox, then throughout spread
Cedar chips. Inside, a grinning bride plunged down the aisle. Shit.
Said my uncle humbly, a tone low as earth. Doesn't this look great.
Photo, detail: Jeff Foster.
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