Days are not as they were.
I clear the new field alone,
fill the wheelbarrow with stones, broken roots,
what I should’ve said.
I lift and stagger with the weight,
push the load, spill it in a row of piles,
the stone border I’ve made to keep you here.
I’m always losing trees,
limbs taken by the weight of the snow,
deer reaching for shoots, cankers grown on the trunks
in the months of rain.
At night, I’m lost spinning with what you’ve said.
I lose to the shambling bully
who prowls late-September nights,
smashes fence planks, shakes the trunks
until the trees give up their plums,
his black pit-filled scat piled near the gate.
I lose when the scar in your voice
scrapes mine, the stricture of years
tightened around longing.
Orchard voices seep into the air
as I talk to the trees, prop up
what’s been bent but not broken,
drift out on the plains of regret.
I practice again what I will say.
But there are mornings when a dream
clears the night, the pillow smells of your hair,
your singing rises up
from the rows of blueberries
and I am found.

Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize.