Monday, April 29, 2013

That evening after the strangest day of their lives

"Beauty" (Part IV) by B.H. Fairchild

So there they are, as I will always remember them, 
the men who were once fullbacks or tackles or guards 
in their three-point stances knuckling into the mud, 
hungry for high school glory and the pride of their fathers, 
eager to gallop terribly against each other's bodies
each man in his body looking out now at the nakedness 
of a body like his, men who each autumn had followed 
their fathers into the pheasant-rich fields of Kansas 
and as boys had climbed down from the Allis-Chalmers 
after plowing their first straight furrow, licking the dirt 
from their lips, the hand of the father resting lightly 
upon their shoulder, men who in the oven-warm winter 
kitchens of Baptist households saw after a bath the body 
of the father and felt diminished by it, who that same 
winter in the abandoned schoolyard felt the odd intimacy 
of their fist against the larger boy's cheekbone 
but kept hitting, ferociously, and walked away 
feeling for the first time the strength, the abundance
of their own bodies. And I imagine the men 
that evening after the strangest day of their lives, 
after they have left the shop without speaking 
and made the long drive home alone in their pickups,
I see them in their little white frame houses on the edge 
of town adrift in the long silence of the evening turning 
finally to their wives, touching without speaking the hair 
which she has learned to let fall about her shoulders 
at this hour of the night, lifting the white nightgown 
from her body as she in turn unbuttons his work shirt 
heavy with the sweat and grease of the day's labor until 
they stand naked before each other and begin to touch 
in a slow choreography of familiar gestures their bodies, 
she touching his chest, his hand brushing her breasts, 
and he does not say the word "beautiful" because 
he cannot and never has, and she does not say it 
because it would embarrass him or any other man 
she has ever known, though it is precisely the word 
I am thinking now as I stand before Donatello's David

Donatello's David
with my wife touching my sleeve, what are you thinking? 
and I think of the letter from my father years ago 
describing the death of Bobby Sudduth, a single shot 
from a twelve-gauge which he held against his chest, 
the death of the heart, I suppose, a kind of terrible beauty
as someone said of the death of Hart Crane, though that is 
surely a perverse use of the word, and I was stunned then, 
thinking of the damage men will visit upon their bodies, 
what are you thinking? she asks again, and so I begin 
to tell her about a strange afternoon in Kansas, 
about something I have never spoken of, and we walk 
to a window where the shifting light spreads a sheen 
along the casement, and looking out, we see the city 
blazing like miles of uncut wheat, the farthest buildings 
taken in their turn, and the great dome, the way 
the metal roof of the machine shop, I tell her, 
would break into flame late on an autumn day, with such beauty.

((I love, love, love this poem. This is only the fourth - and last - part of the poem, but in its wholeness, it is a real work of beauty. I'm not sure where I first read him -- I perhaps heard him as a visiting poet to Hillsdale? Either way, I was enchanted. This poem is from his book The Art of the Lathe.))

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