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Down: Poems and Other Syndromes

Biffar, Donna
ISBN 1589980913
Copyright © 2002 Pudding House Publications
All rights reserved
E-mail: pudding@johnstown.net
  The following poems are reprinted with the permission of their respective copyright holders:
Hundred Acre Woods from Water Witching in the Garden, Mellen Poetry Press (1995).
The Race from College English, © 1999 Copyright by The National Council of Teachers of English.

Book Cover
Hundred Acre Woods

The doctor said he has a transverse crease,
a fat pad neck and a moon-shaped face.
The doctor said if he lives he might be good at art.

He sings of London Bridge at night, hits high
strange notes and merrily rows his boat
on down the stream. I count his chromosomes
like sheep and worry what the full moon brings.

And while doctors diagnose asthma, viral infection, we
dream of the enchanted hundred acre woods. He cannot
breathe our air, cannot speak our language.
Across the hall Big Bird sings from a caged bed of bridges

over streams that aren't as merry as the red lunch box
he carries every day to school. He struggles,
groping for his words, as I do in poetry, unfamiliar
with the language, the customs of the natives.

The Race

The night before the big race
my boy begins to limp. After
bath he sits on the bed,
one foot raised, thin toes curling
like pared soap. I finger each toe,
after nine years still amazed
at the light flake of nail, the
curve of ligament and bone, his body
wrapped in skin soft as hard
boiled egg whites. It's too much.
He tilts back and laughs,
his moon face a crescent.
He sucks in hard, like he did as a baby
those sterile nights in the veil
of an oxygen tent when the doctor said
this might be it, when the doctor said
if he lived he might be good
at art. Red monitors mirrored
the silver crib. I climbed in
past the wires and tubes anchoring
his life. The white room was black.
When the nurse came in on a sliver
of light, her pale dress a polyester
whisper, I'd already unsnapped
his sleeper and placed my palm
on his purplish chest. Monsignor said
watch for the light. He said listen
for the thrum of angel's wings.
What he meant was air.
How finally my boy is getting away.
Tonight far off lights glisten like small lives,
or is it fireflies bending and tapping the glass-
their wings lifting then dropping like flags,
the signal to begin.

Upon Your Breathing

All night I wake and listen
for your breath through the walls,
seeping past the points of nails,
the grains of wood from trees long dead-
these bodies of small sound and air
with arms and legs flailing
through the crossing darkness,
and I listen.
Listen. You came to me
when there was no water, no air,
and the doctors heard your heart,
and took you
in soundless white-skinned sheets,
chanting of your moon face,
your simian crease, how breath might
stop dead in your lungs. But here
is your hair, thin as a fishes' breath,
your eyes, your egg shell skin cracking birth
into this sentence,
and these messengers of air and sound
you create-
their smudged all-night faces
born in butterfly lungs,
passing through the deaf, enclosing trees.

Revised: April 9, 2002.