Waccamaw
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Hard Light through Hemlock

                                    Ryan Teitman


           Damn the snow. 
                       ―Yusef Komunyakaa

My father told me
that all the workings
of our clocks were
turned by tiny ghosts.
I was a child then,
and never knew
the difference
between an eyeful
of snow and an assembly
of spirits manning
the mechanics
of our old house.
I somehow deduced
that every apparition
was made of ice,
so I crossed
myself when the boys
in the schoolyard
ate their handfuls
of playground snow.
Their hot breath
ghosted against the gray
film of January mornings,
and their tongues reddened
as they showed
each other the thin coats
of ice melting
over muscle.
My father’s hands
at the piano pushed
against the muscles
of the keys, arranging
each one as if it were
the limb of an artist’s
model aching after
a full day’s sitting.
Every piano we had
was a kind of ghost—
each one an artifact.
The movers left
the last piano in our yard
while we were away.
We returned to find
an old upright slumped
and half-buried by snow
like a fat doe shot
and forgotten.
Every clock in our house
had unfinished business.
Every note my father
struck in the dark
before he left for work
was another life waiting—
like him—to sleep
through the sunrise.
And every morning
I woke to the clatter
of a hard light
through hemlock,
of a garage door closing,
of a window undoing
the morning, and I could
never help but pull
the covers over my face,
let my breath become
a coat of warmth
that I knew could
never fray.


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