Two poems by Heather Altfeld

Heather Altfeld

Heather Altfeld

Heather Altfeld teaches English and Honors classes at California State University, Chico. Her recent and forthcoming publications include poetry in Narrative Magazine, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, ZYZZYVA, Sow’s Ear Review, Greensboro Review, Squaw Valley Review, Jewish Currents, Laurel Review, The New Guard, and Zone 3. She has completed her first book of poems and is currently working on a second book of poetry and a book of stories for children.

Orphan’s Kaddish

a hundred years from now,
up past the dried apple valley
and the stiff granite lonely for lupine,

let there still be a lake
capling its way behind the trees
and a dusty canoe floating in the water

and someone in the canoe
who vaguely resembles you
floating away beneath what is still,

please, the heavens blinking.
Let the little green lantern you left behind
gild the darkness with its gaslight,

reminding the water (who never forgets)
how much you loved its quick lap
against your knees. And in the trees

let us hope the flicker of a lyre bird
will be singing the fragments
of the lost songs you loved most,

melodies from the days you held
in your palm like stones
and the evenings you drank

like late rain, before you fell
into the night’s unassailable heart,
entrusting the court of the wind with your name.

The Magazine

The reports are all in
the reports from the hardened coves
of the wasps, the spindly trails of the ant-lion,
the mossy-wigged rocks, the bobcat, the plains mice—
all of the districts, in other words,
and none of the accounts look good,

they all heard the report shaving at the pines,
its dry embrittled crack, its angry stripe—
they scattered the news and carried,
on their knuckles, the white-tailed deer
her twitchy, terrified smile, that grim, thin smile
the one you wore when you heard the report

in the magazine, the investigation, its hemless, hard strap,
its thoughtless—that is, without a thought—
graze, its cold stutter reporting
against the stone, brick, window, the flocks
quacking and quailing in the rice fields,
on the playgrounds, and in front of the capitals,

in the magazines, you could see it, glinty and shining
and wanting to be yours. The reports arrive
by morse and pigeon, from the territories and the back streets
and the brownstones, you can hear them
during the bright noise of your interrogation,
beneath the static the words are clear, you are being stung, set up,

you are, in fact, in the report, you are being written up
in our magazine, you are being grazed on the ear,
cuffed on the sleeve, your heart
is being busted, your heart is busting
from its great belt of ice, you are lifting up
and floating outward and upward right as the last report

is being filed, and this is what they will remember afterwards,
the silver arc, the bow, the graceful way you fell,
the beauty of your blood, its steady, gorgeous, deepening pool.