In Defense of Syracuse's Loose-Knitted Sky

BJ Ward


[Table of Contents]
[Editor's Note]

When the heat drops from the sun and needs no gravity to land hard and bounces off the hood of your old Volvo the way holy thoughts are rejected by the hard shell of science—

When prairie fire swings its hot arms into your fields and sings its falsetto into your sky and your house, your dog, your cigars and your lemonade just stand there in the path of heat's widening circle—

When heat crouches low, a heavy, pregnant beast full of destruction, and crawls up the road, softening the hardest blacktop, scorching the sideweeds, scratching stretch marks behind its wide berth,

slithers up your body and spills down your throat
like a 90 proof shot of yesterday's thirst—

When heat does this, get your ass to Syracuse.
Go to Syracuse in February, say, when no one is thirsty, when heat is just an enigma like the promised word of God to the Zionists.

Stay there.
And when it snows, when the skies have carried the Great Lakes to you and dropped them like the Earth's soiled white laundry all over your front lawn and pet Chihuahua—Syracuse's prank on all its people—

Think about Rt. 44 in South Dakota, how heat's ugly dogs will run into your car, pop your radiator, blow into your engine, and leak their dry cracks all over your leather interior.

And when sky falls down in April thirty drops at a time all over your freshly washed bicycle, think about the lopsided sky over Phoenix, all sun and glare and spilling sunburns,          no rain,          no water,
          no water—

Heat can bake your pie,
but it can't build your filling.
It can rub your neck raw
but it can't kiss your body—
what kind of lover is that?
Let rain be your lover.
Let the many mouths of the sky
drop onto and suckle your body
in your body's many small places.
Let the rain heal you—let it lick you out of the bad mood
you bought in L.A. and can't exchange.
Let it fill you past your full mark.
Let it grow in your groin, spill into your spleen.
Let the rain form waterfalls where your body needs to laugh,
and let the waterfall sprout up like orgasms on a good night.
Let yourself be so full of the sky's good humor
that even the snow, happy and awkward
in its own many bodies, is no surprise—
how the rain, put against the driest,
most miserable of land and thoughts,
can cause tulips, turnips, potatoes and rainbows—
great colors bordering our roves, crossing our town.
Let the rain water your spirit and let your spirit
continue to rain on others.
Indeed, let our spirits open as wide as our umbrellas—
how umbrellas are both male and female,
like any blooming flower.
Joy to the world. It is raining.
And the moments of our lives run deepest,
like our favorite valleys,
where they are most moist.



Copyright 1994, BJ Ward. Originally published in Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands (North Atlantic Books).


BJ Ward is the author of three volumes of poetry, most recently Gravedigger's Birthday (2002). His work has appeared in publications such as Poetry, TriQuarterly, Painted Bride Quarterly, The New York Times, Puerto Del Sol, Mid-American Review, and Long Shot. He is the recipient of Poetry Fellowships from the NJ State Council on the Arts and the Alliance for Arts Education in New Jersey, and has been awarded two residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In the summer of 2002 he joined the resident faculty at the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. He earned a MA from Syracuse University. He currently lives in northwestern New Jersey where he directs the Warren County Poetry Festival.