In this piece, Martha sings a current through time. Her song ebbs when a soothing wind lifts to a lighter shadow. Falling notes yearn for their intervals. Standing by the window, she listens for Lazarus. The next verse—a new movement—bends and quickens.
Force meets counterforce as spears and rocks find their targets. In narrow streets—a funeral— men of ready answers hold forth. Somewhere the pen signs off on it too. Up front are willing hands, informants, the shame-noose. That this is right, and that is wrong.
Martha sleeps. Her breathing slows until the heart twitches, alarmed. Teeth are cooped, the tongue lies thick and still. Her father, who invaded a country, talks softly, unlike the comrades, cheerfully booming. (Haven’t they suffered enough?) In the flats, water dries to salt but the sea asks for more.
A pearly string of notes, blue like the gesture that opens the rhapsody. Groves of almond, olive, pine— in the dark, she hears an animal range, the forest-edge—pellucid, exuberant.
Martha’s waking is slow, intimate, an assemblage from a kinder darkness, the fierce and clement web. These dwellings clustered along the river— they offer kinship, a clan. Birds disperse and return. Her father did what soldiers do, then his voice became slow and gentle. A cabin-song, then—hands flutter over the page, loosely, barely guiding the pen.
Spring has taken them by surprise. The soldier says, you could deny a flower’s bliss, a morning’s incline. A frail man, he isn’t the kind of father who will swoop up a child and carry it on his shoulders. As they walk, the light skips and ravishes. Straggle-plants liven up. He is listing things they change by touching them: mirrors, memories. How his heart stumbles in off-rhythms— she listens, ear pressed to his chest.
The score calls for passion, a tumultuous event. The women convene in plazas, streets, on the temple mount. Irrepressible, harsher now, worn by shouting and crying, their voices worry the higher range— the song has taken them out of the chapel.
Martha’s voice ebbs into morning. When she laments her brother, her solo rings its bright shield. The women’s dances have not abolished the dictates, but slight alterations in pitch create a richer sound—it carries them as they walk along Bethany’s walls. The poorhouse trembles under a thick orange sky. Recruits line the market.
A bird’s eye hovers above, and in its balance she holds the unspecified time—a small void, a suspended judgment. Water pools in the stone cistern. Sheltered by an arc, the eye-insight opens— together they dream a slate-blue sky.
Leonore Hildebrandt is the author of The Work at Hand and The Next Unknown. She has published poems and translations in The Cafe Review, Cerise Press, Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, The Fiddlehead, Mudlark, Poetry Daily, and Poetry Salzburg Review, among other journals. Winner of the 2013 Gemini Poetry Contest, she received fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Maine Community Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission. A native of Germany, Hildebrandt lives “off the grid” in Harrington, Maine. She teaches writing at the University of Maine and serves on the editorial board of the Beloit Poetry Journal.