"I'll walk, I'll go with you."

Deborah Digges (via Poets.org)
This Christmas I received Deborah Digges's posthumous collection The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, and I've slowly been making my way through it. One poem every few days is about all I can bear.

So far, these poems feel dense and solid, heavy, and there's also a sensation of feeling crowded, like the walls are squeezing in on me as I read, and this in turn makes me feel quite anxious when I read them.

There is, as one might expect, a heavy burden resting on these poems, holding them down to the ground, to our world, our lives. I think Brett Foster's recent description gets it right: "[In] this book, death has not been defied."

The poems here are both devoured by grief, but they are also grief-devouring. Although there's a dark sadness that runnels deep beneath these poems, there is also a kind of joy that emanates from the page in the musicality of Digges's language, in the repeating images of birth and rebirth, and just in the sheer fact that we have this final collection.


The wind blows through the doors of my heart

The wind blows
through the doors of my heart.
It scatters my sheet music
that climbs like waves from the piano, free of the keys.
Now the notes stripped, black butterflies,
flattened against the screens.
The wind through my heart
blows all my candles out.
In my heart and its rooms is dark and windy.
From the mantle smashes birds’ nests, teacups
full of stars as the wind winds round,
a mist of sorts that rises and bends and blows
or is blown through my rooms of my heart
that shatters the windows,
rakes the bedsheets as though someone
had just made love. And my dresses
they are lifted like brides come to rest
on the bedstead, crucifixes,
dresses tangled in trees in the rooms
of my heart. To save them
I’ve thrown flowers to fields,
so that someone would pick them up
and know where they came from.
Come the bees now clinging to flowered curtains.
Off with the clothesline pinning anything, my mother’s trousseau.
It is not for me to say what is this wind
or how it came to blow through the rooms of my heart.
Wing after wing, through the rooms of the dead
the wind does not blow. Nor the basement, no wheezing,
no wind choking the cobwebs in our hair.
It is cool here, quiet, a quilt spread on soil.
But we will never lie down again.


Deborah Digges  - Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Pasadena, CA, 3/5/2009


Haying

Scythe to root cut, rolled backwards into time,
the hut-round ricks lashed down four-square with linen
like bonneted and faceless women.
Timothy and bromegrass so lately harvested
for yield, tripoded, teddered in sunlight, brush-hogged.
And here on frozen ground, great bales of hay
hacked free, alfalfa, oats in clover woven, pitchforked
from truck beds for the horses.
We watched them for years, their grazing.
Heartbreaking now such symmetry,
which kept our earthly house
that you or I would ever cross the windrows
of a field ripe for the haying, one or the other lost,
head high until, at last, the field raked clean
showed nothing but the seeds, crows circling,
stumps and stones, such strident fog the ghost crowds
hauling willow baskets—
cinched till their fingers bled—heads down
over the husks stalked underfoot like thorns.
I'd try on death to find you, gown made of grasses
harvest time, early, the loose hay drying in the mow,
or knit from stores of birdsfoot trifold, the greener the crop less packed,
heaped in the air-strung lofts of winter barns,
or scattered here in almost spring,
the last of it, what falls outside the fence clenched in my glove,
kicked under slats to feed the broodmares.
I have lain down across such orchard grasses on your grave
smelling the deep that keeps you, tasting snow,
something gone out of me forbidden, beyond birdsong
or vision, mantle trivial worn by the living,
there grazed wild violets, stroked fire green moss
that glows all winter clinging to the stone,
slept there on top of you, as once we'd say
a mortal lie, I'll walk, I'll go with you.
I've lapped your freeze and thaw,
season of wildflowers, season of leaf fall,
as close as I can get to you here on a bed of straw.


Deborah Digges
from The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart