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After Paradise

Janis Rapoport
From:   After Paradise. Simon & Pierre, 1996


for Bill & Vina Percy

In roadside orchards strung with yellow apples
undressed branches cross the autumn sky.

On trimmed lawns, life-size ornaments: Sylvesters, Tweetie
Birds, geese, pandas, Snow Whites and the Virgin Mary.

Chrysanthemums bloom on a terrace above graves
whose curved markers are stone fingers scratching.

From somewhere a koto; its translucent hum
summons spirits onto a burnished trellis of rain.

Home baking and watch repairs thrive behind double ferns
and prayer plants. Under a bird feeder's red roof, a well.

Clerics in collars and robes head for the salt marsh where
a prayer book society will rewrite the Scriptures.

Their daughters are all called Rebecca, Sarah, Rachel.
They are looking for birds to place on long, polished tables.

In someone's garden a pheasant calls out to the ground.
Crows sit on porches and carved balustrades.

At Victoria Beach there is no longer sand or bathers
only docks with shellfish remains, dulse and gulls.

Steps from the wharf vanish with the quiet tide.
Here dolphins are known to swim unseen.

Dressed in orange waders, fishermen cast lots from boats
in shallow water. They lasso a wandering fish box.

On a steep slope behind them one tamarack blazes.
A ladder of its bright leaves drifts to the ground.

Ghosts of the Pony Express visit Goat Island
then sift among covered bridges for words.

Apples are punctured with nails in cylinders,
crushed between wood slats, strained for cider or wine.

At the edge of a garden a jury of cabbages
and pewter cages passes its verdict on the weather.

A pale company of hills washes the horizon with stone
in waves that are forever, though often veiled.

Inside your house there is cranberry glass and
a Crown Brand Extracts clock, once from Montreal.

Brown and silent, its hands on a staircase wall
are a key to a world beyond illness and coughing.

The black stove with doors of glass and gold
vibrates like a shakuhachi, watery with breath.

There is a dog in the red-roofed doghouse
on a lump of its very own land in a pond.

A propeller was once found in a field, nothing else.
A gospel lighthouse stands there now, open for prayer.

Behind shutters, under gables: wool yarn and
pear jelly, berry vinegar are often for sale.

All night daggers from across the river light the water
between these shores. The moon pulls. Nothing moves.

In the morning the air has the sheen of new wheat,
the sound of honey. It feels like the ripeness

of apples in the orchards after Paradise or the sun
in the doorway your beloved is holding between her hands.


Janis Rapoport's works copyright © to the author.


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