American Life in Poetry: Column 037


Painful separations, through divorce,
through death, through alienation,
sometimes cause us to focus on the
objects around us, often invested
with sentiment. Here's Shirley Buettner,
having packed up what's left of a relationship.

The Wind Chimes

Two wind chimes,
one brass and prone to anger,
one with the throat of an angel,
swing from my porch eave,
sing with the storm.
Last year I lived five months
under that shrill choir,
boxing your house, crowding books
into crates, from some pages
your own voice crying.
Some days the chimes raged.
Some days they hung still.
They fretted when I dug up
the lily I gave you in April,
blooming, strangely, in fall.
Together, they scolded me
when I counted pennies you left
in each can, cup, and drawer,
when I rechecked the closets
for remnants of you.
The last day, the house empty,
resonant with space, the two chimes
had nothing to toll for.
I walked out, took them down,
carried our mute spirits home.

From "Thorns," published by Juniper Press,
1995. Copyright (c) 1995 by Shirley Buettner
and reprinted with permission of the author.
This weekly column is supported by The Poetry
Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the
Department of English at the University of
Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept
unsolicited poetry.