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Tom Holmes

A Hinge in Time

Tomorrow / You will not die / But you will drop eggs / Down an iron well.
—Russian Proverb

I

The lady in the tower
hurls oranges at the moon.
With fingers like shivs,
she peels black from night.

II

When will you open the door,
climb the spiral stairs,
and slip into your grace?
As you decide,

moths flutter on your eyelashes,
a glacial period
recedes from your feet.

III

When it snows, I’ll compact
a snowball and roll it into fire,
a curled orange peel
exposing its white underside.

 

Letting Go

By tradition, you hold the dead
upon your palm
beside the previously passed
and their family photographs.

If a child attends,
send her to the mountains.
If she returns
speaking like a glacier,
she will die within a generation.

If she returns
stammering as its runoff,
then she’s met the ghost
and will in age understand
the feelings of love.

If singing like a warbler,
she’ll always be in debt,
and the ashes should be lined
along the railroad tracks.

If no child appears
or if any child arrives,
finish your business—
walk the tracks
to their beginnings.

Inside an empty boxcar,
balance the urn
without its lid
and let it ride,
let it ride.

Upon your return,
count the sleepers home
with lowered head.
Unwind, unwind,
unwind the ties.

Sleepers: another name for a “railroad tie,” “railway tie,” or “cross-tie.”

 

Tom Holmes is the editor of Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose and the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently _The Cave_, which won The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013 and will be released in 2014. His writings about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break.

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