Mark Mansfield – Five Poems
Need More Be Said?
A sudden rush of wings above your head,
behind your back, a voice whispers your name
but when you turn around, no one is there.
It’s night, you’re all alone–need more be said?
A fog horn moans out past the buoys while fled
is the music of every bird but the mournful “who”s
from one who asks no one. And just the same,
it’s night, you’re all alone–need more be said?
A doo-wop tune from a car dead ahead
croons of two lovers and a rendezvous
that never was . Today hushed your affair.
But it’s night, you’re all alone–need more be said?
Perhaps just this, those wings that rushed the air?
Except for the owl, every bird had flown. In your hair
there’s a smell
The woods beyond the old house echo with
a Bob White’s eponymous complaint
while every gesture, every glance I knew
seems like lost plumage fluttering to the earth.
A Bob White’s eponymous complaint
haunts the grounds once twilight gilds the day;
one wing’s lost plumage flutters to the earth
as shadows hear each memory’s pulse grow faint.
Haunting the grounds once twilight gilds the day
and the dormer where she often sat to rest,
shadows hear each memory’s pulse grow faint.
Shuttered now, no greetings from its bay
or its dormer where she often sat to rest,
no rustlings announcing how she struggled down,
but shutters dark, no greetings from its bay,
and silence from her empty gable’s nest.
No rustlings announcing how she struggled down
to greet me, laughter blossoming in peals,
just silence from her empty gable’s nest
as gusts lift fallen leaves up from the ground.
How she’d greet me, laughter spent in peals―
now, all that’s left are rooms bereft of mirth
as gusts lift fallen leaves up from the ground,
chasing them far across the dormant fields.
Yes, all that’s left are rooms bereft of mirth
where every gesture, every glance I knew
vanish with gusts across the dormant fields
that the woods beyond our old house echo with.
Poor Souls’ Bell
Here, a pair of stranded chickens peck
in a garden started beside a small wood deck
that looks out on a stretch of empty shore,
not another house for miles. A mission bell
tolls while the screen door creaks, then bangs out of sync
with the surf as it crashes on the shore, the blinking
from a lighthouse beacon sweeping where the flare
of the sun’s rays drowned an hour ago. The swell
and roar of the ocean fills the air. This was
their cottage―lifeless as a shell, not missed
by those who lived here, both gone now―from here
and everywhere. Still now, the mission bell.
One night we’ll meet again
at a ball where as before
all the other guests
will have left. Along
the walls two shadows will spin
while across a marble floor
a couple will arabesque
as a strange, familiar song
echoes, then begins
from the lips of a troubadour,
who sang at your bequest
such a long time ago.
The first time you gazed through my world
and like a scream, a face peered back,
your heart near stopped and hair stood, shocked,
the first time that his face appeared.
Yet kept my counsel, sure, dear girl,
that who’d believe you, thinking you mad
except for those who see what’s not,
or maybe is. Over the years,
there’ve been times since my dull glaze swirled,
first blank as death, to yield him caught
as though trapped in a frozen pond,
held from that night on, in here.
(She says her dreams find yours night-long.
If eyes could sing. Look! Hear — her song.)
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Whatever haunts our memories has the potential to make us think of the word, beauty (along with many other words). Beauty has been associated with what is strange, with emanating from the kind of changes only death creates, with various pleasing qualities that may be culturally bound or bound to our make-up as sentient creatures—or most closely bound to our individual lives.
For me, beauty will always resist too much of our taking things apart to take a look inside, which isn’t to say that beauty cannot be analyzed. But there comes a point when the mystery of what’s puzzled over exceeds whatever pieces are missing, which may not be missing at all.
“But nothing’s lost. Or else: all is translation/And every bit of us is lost in it/(Or found … .” And so it is with beauty, its strangest, most pleasing quality of all.
Mark Mansfield’s poems have appeared in The Evansville Review, Fourteen Hills, Magma, Salt Hill, Unsplendid, and elsewhere. Currently, he lives in upstate New York.