Anne-Marie Thompson

The Chickenhawk


I don't know if I told you, but a few
weeks back, when you and I went to the park
instead of to the lunchtime meeting, when you
noticed Red-headed Braille etched in the bark
of the hickory, I think I knew. Sitting
with you on that memorial bench, I heard
only the giant quiet, and then I heard
your heartbeat. You said, you're beautiful, sitting
in all that giant quiet sunlight.
Then something
grand and terrifying: the chickenhawk
appeared out of the huge and silent something.
How to describe it. It was like a cork
let loose. A magnet. But more violent. She
was diving toward desire. I couldn't see.


I don't know if I told you, but a few
weeks back, I visited our favorite park
to take a walk and, of course, think of you,
and found that Red-head's etchings in the bark--
like letters to a distant sweetheart. Sitting
alone on the memorial bench, I heard
only the giant quiet. I thought I heard
your heartbeat, wondered if you might be sitting
inside a park down there in Texas. Then something
strange and terrible: a chickenhawk
appeared out of the vast and silent nothing.
You'd know how to describe it. It was a mach
airgun. A dying star or god. He
was diving toward some prey I couldn't see.

After Fruit-Picking on the Mountain

The treeline briefly opened up
as we came slowly down,
like déjà vu inverted, dusk
blurring to future dawn;

like glimpses of a memory
of now that we'll have then;
like time unlacing to reveal
its curves, its secret skin;

like happening upon wild fruit
that ripened before season;
like sunsets making mayhaw ladders
scale the way to heaven.

Look at This Card, Or: Why I Broke Things Off Soon After I Got Back From the Public Bathroom in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

It was the two of diamonds.
We looked.
Two of diamonds. Two of diamonds.
I felt crazy. I felt like all my teeth were made of diamonds.
I felt crazy and like my face looked
crazy. My teeth were made of diamonds.
I stood closer to you.
I stood a whole lot closer to you
and looked at the card
and made crazy faces because of all the diamonds.
Still the two of diamonds.

You bought the deck.
For your nephew. Or so we could leave the magic shop. You bought the deck
and I felt cold
and crazy and I had to go to the bathroom.
I went to find a bathroom
and you went to find hot chocolate. I felt cold.

I should have said come with me.
I should have said don't leave, come with me.
Because this place makes me feel a little crazy.
Not just the magic man makes me feel crazy.

I should have said
don't leave and please come with me. Should have said.

Said I was here before with a man and a diamond.
I was here a long time ago with a diamond
and a man. Said I wrote our names on a card
and slid it under a glass tabletop at the tiny restaurant. Said there was this card.

I was alone and walking toward the bathroom
but walking also toward the tabletop and the card.
I knew I was walking toward the card
with the names. I felt crazy. I had to go to the bathroom.

I saw the names and the card.
I should have told you about the card
and why I started feeling crazy.
Because of the card and the diamonds. The glass and the card.
Everything felt like diamonds and crazy.

Here is what is real
and not crazy. You are real.
The card under the glass
is crazy but also real
the way that things under glass
and in magic decks are crazy and real.

I should have said
come with me and I want to show you
this crazy real thing. Should have said.

I should have said look at this card.
Look. It's crazy. It's me. Stand closer to me. Look. Look at this card.

The Place

The day of the accident, the air pulses
its humid silver not.

Sudden snow: The church picnic moves
inside, Blessed Be

to Introit, and I take I-70, surely
safer than Route J.

Big Baltimore flakes: That is what I think,
and hear his drawl

from that faraway passenger seat,
on our way

to Lexington Market, best crab cakes
in Baltimore.

Lexington Market. He liked the way
I dropped the final

t, glottal-stopped absence ridiculous hot,
he said, too

sweet, said, Baby Doll, I sure do love you.
What I think:

These flakes are too big and these cars
are too many and

I'm supposed to be not here.
What I think:

The happiness was too big. What
I think: I soaked up

the too-big happiness and couldn't fit it
in my own little soul.

What I think: the market; him in chamois
next to me;

Faidley's table austere as a pew,
our supper forsaken.

His forehead warmed my forehead
under the gaze

of the neon crab and the aproned
man, who said

loud about our too-happy leanings:
Aw. Not in the place.

It snowed his whole visit and I
never felt cold.

The big Baltimore flakes too-many
my windshield.

Before I was born, I sat and talked
with God

up in Heaven. I remember this
very clearly.

I didn't want to leave, but knew
I had to--

something big was down there.
When my

car starts sliding and spinning
on the snow,

I think of the place. I think of us
in the place.

The Day After I Meet Secretly with My Ex, Mama Calls Me Crying

Not music     not music anyway that I could recognize
     I don't know how to say it     it was noise     like a party
and it was you          I couldn't recognize     I could
and you and the not music     and waking up
     still the music not music and anyway thought
     a train you know
living so close to the Line and anyway you know trains you know
     I can't sleep or
Daddy's alarm     I thought     and     so taking out my earplugs
     it was so much silence           it was no alarm          it wasn't time
and I put the earplugs back in and tried          and then
     the room and you and music     and again taking them out
     and again     it was so much silence
and the third time I heard again the music not music     and heard
     it was you     it was your voice Anne-Marie     the music
     and you said          something
it was you and the room and the music          it wasn't time
     it was two years from now
and you said          Mama I made a horrible mistake
it was you     and it was     and I'm not     I'm not a mystic
you know     but you said     it was your voice said
     I have made a horrible mistake and then it was
so much silence only silence no alarm
               and anyway I'm sorry     I maybe shouldn't
tell you this but I am struggling and I haven't been sleeping
you know I can't sleep


you know     but anyway I got up and made coffee and
I talked to God you know     said     God I don't know what
this means I don't know and I don't want to know and what do I do
     I made coffee     and it was so much silence
     what do you want from me God
I asked     so much silence and Daddy still asleep     it wasn't time
and I started thinking about Vicki          you know Vicki
who has the beautiful condo in The Woodlands
     and she dates nice men     nice successful men and
     this beautiful condo and          but
once Colleen and I were talking and you know Colleen and you know
messiness noisiness     and     anyway          said
     Vicki has this beautiful condo and dates nice men nice
     successful men          and then Colleen said     oh but
in that apartment     it's just so much silence
          and then you know we cried and cried
Colleen and me


and later getting ready for church     we went to the early service
and it was
the Wedding at Cana          the sermon was the Wedding at Cana
but then the strangest thing     it was
     the pastor was there and all the folks and then
     and then they weren't
and it was     a vision maybe maybe a vision and
maybe I'm just crazy
but it was
     a tall darkhaired man there     a tall darkhaired man at the altar
and he was at the altar pouring wine     it was communion wine
     and a woman was with him and
     it was you Anne-Marie
I couldn't see her face but          the man
was pouring the wine and it was you and so much silence and you
          were wearing my veil     I maybe shouldn't tell you this
but it was so much silence and I couldn't see the pastor or the church
only the darkhaired man and the woman in my veil
it was you in my veil
     and the music not music     and I kept thinking     hearing
     it isn't time     it isn't time     and
               what is going on with Anne-Marie
and the room and the not music and I thought I'm no mystic
     but Anne-Marie               you have to tell me
are you back with him


I just          it was so much silence
you held so much silence     back then     so     much
you held it so deep in your heart it was like     I just feel I just like
you held it deep in your throat
          I saw you          I saw you
you have to tell     me     Anne-Marie
     I don't know what it means     I'm not a mystic
but I want for you the time to finally come
          I want for you the wine I want for you I want
     you to not say          horrible mistake
I'm not a mystic     just your Mama
I want for you the wine     the wine and the darkhaired man
     or     I want for you the miracle     the time
     the changing of water     I want for you to have
          the wine     the party saved
                    the music starting up again

Prayer to Sainte Genevieve

Let there be forever Ice Cream Sara;
the pizza restaurant's back door forever opening to the high school
     show choir
          in the middle of the hat routine;
the stolen relics forever returned in a Ziploc bag on the church's
          forever the Main Street tree lighting;
          forever the tiny tree.
Let there be carolers in traditional French dress.
Let there be the blond-haired girl on the front row:
          now singing loudest her invented syllables,
now distracted by her friend's crooked muffler, Santa, her own knee.
Let there be in the crowd:
          the girl's mother, thinking Camilla;
the repentant thief, spinning and spinning a hat between shaky
and someone, alone like me, looking for something lost here a long
     time ago.
Let there be Silent Night:
          the mayor fumbling with the plug;
          the catastrophe of lights;
          the scattered applause.

Sweet saint of purity and faith;
     saint of small Missouri river towns:
Let there be a place for returns and changes of heart:
          for change that leaves us back, somehow, where we began;
          for change that leaves something beautiful behind--
               the thief's scrawled apology;
               the glimpse of an old lover's face in a crowd;
               the sound of water moving through a riverbed.


Anne-Marie Thompson's first book, Audiation, won the 2013 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared in Southwest Review, The Southeast Review, Ploughshares, Unsplendid, and other journals. Originally from Texas, she now lives in Columbia, Missouri, where she works as a technical writer for a software engineering company and as a pianist and organist for several choral groups.

32 Poems
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