A jumble of buildings squatted some distance away, dark and low. Under branches defying gravity the path meandered toward the nursery. From an uncertain height all eyes seemed upon us. The silence of blossoms made it at first feel right. Leaf-fall, bleeding from selected trees, the greenhouse at its designated distance, argued for the set-up as an outgrowth of nature, the temperature not as a kind of poison. In fact, the caretakers were in league with economies of fear. They would take mallets to our knees. These thorns were gods and we travelers, worshippers, torsos caught eternally in coarse and caustic brambles. What use to mouth inane prayers or stride like animals? What use to side-step the torn stubble like creatures of the night? We’d need streamers of fire to excavate a trench toward home. We’d need to swivel our shoulders, plunge through the forest without helmets, pause before the altar whose namesake was our mother, whose stanchions were of heartwood, whose scene allowed no repeating. Our best intentions undercut before daylight, our balance challenged by the frequency of foxholes, our voices reduced to the capacity of swine, our vision limited like a gas-lit lamp, we ping-ponged till pleading Uncle.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This prose poem was selected from entries submitted to our Creative Challenge Series #1: First Sentences, which required that the first sentence in the text must be used as given. Read other Creative Challenge winners. To find out how to participate, go to Creative Challenges.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
D. R. James has written poetry collections including Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street) and five chapbooks, most recently Why War and Split-Level. His work has appeared in Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford and Poetry in Michigan / Michigan in Poetry. His full-length collection ‘If god were gentle’ appears in December 2017 from Dos Madres Press. James lives in Saugatuck, Michigan, and has been teaching writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College for 33 years. Visit his Amazon author page.