At the Fairbanks Airport
for Sean Hill
We drove all day and saw no moose, no elk,
no magnificent lumbering from that brush
brisk September turned to shivering
rainbows broken only by the crest
of snow-capped domes, still as sleeping breasts.
Those hills were theirs to roam through after all.
Now my consolation relic of the wild
flashes back from its cage of museum light:
a beaded Athabascan moose-heart bag
resting on a nest of shredded bark.
Clumsy and misshapen as a fetus,
its hollow chamber could have held our hands
plunged wrist-deep. In the snapshot that I took
the glass reflects our faces side by side.
More accurate to say our faces both
are bearded glares. Sean, the terminal’s
stale popcorn stench clings to loneliness.
I watch the pulsing planes ascend to tufts
of dingy sunset clouds. The beautiful
couple who let their daughter wander off
ignore her squealing raid through rows of chairs.
She flees our gate to cross the aisle and pet
the husky stuffed atop a sled. He guards
the gift shop’s shirts of antler silhouettes.
In the Beginning
There was no word, only Bacon, marking
“some corrosive quality” in 1626
until metaphor became fact: Dragon Fly,
no longer libellula, odonata, those soft
Latin lilts scorched like dewy lambs
waking to the fire-screech. Their pasture
blazes while the shepherd’s daughter
cowers beneath a cart watching bones
blacken, not knowing how to hide
her ears and eyes simultaneously.
Delirious, what can she say to revelers
at the pub when she pounds the door,
filthy, panting, the charred remainder
of a mother’s face smoldering
behind her eyes? What can they do
but whisk her to the local priest,
swollen with vestments, to bless
her terror with spells? He blames
lightning’s freakish flash and calls
her faith in beasts a village
myth. While he prays she marks
the swarm of shimmered wings outside
the rectory creep across hillside graves
whose chiseled names she cannot read.
Adam Tavel's third poetry collection, Catafalque, recently won the 2017 Richard Wilbur Award and is forthcoming with the University of Evansville Press. He is also the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015), winner of the Permafrost Book Prize in Poetry. This is his third appearance in Diode. You can find him online at adamtavel.com.