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The Red Skirt Falling

Poetry by Mary Legato Brownell

The rain is unease to come.
After these days of love, and so long,
you want to press the heart of the air not to change
its mind, but you can’t. You begin to forget;
you can’t stop yourself. You think of saying, wait—
this is not what I hoped for, to be so far away.

You want the days as they were, a way
of stopping what will happen. You close your eyes and become
someone else. The colors of everything do not wait
for you. Gold is the white flight of small birds. In their long
silence, they have no place to go. Clay tiles forget
to be a roof. Instead, they change

to the red hands of the sea. And of the sea, the linen change
of its skin becomes the skirt of a woman tumbling away.
You know who she is; you believe you will never forget
her. She covers your heart with her hem. She will never come
to you again, and lifts, out of the announcement of the rain, the long
hand of the dark, lifts its palm and turns. You wait

and try to touch her, but the rain won’t wait.
It takes what remains of you. The brown branches change.
The edge of the earth lifts itself into a long
mountain. Your breath is pulled away;
the silk lining of your lungs is tearing. You gave her up and come
to this night so that you won’t forget,

your face so full of the coming moisture, you forget
entirely the raw cotton of your heart. You wait
for the tiny body of your thoughts to come
in, come in before it is too late to change;
Look at her again. Look at the edge of her red skirt falling away
and pulling, through all that wind, the unending threads of what you long

for. All along, the quiet rain turns itself into a long
night of light and silence—the cup on the table, the tiles cracking. You must not forget,
if you are to go on, what happened here. When you end up away
from those you love, the rain is the small memory you must not wait
to carry. If you do, it will change
what you want. You will think you have come

through something but you haven’t. What needs to come to you never does, long
hours of lasting change, the rain, the look on her face to forget,
to wait for, the wet rustle of your heart turning away.

§ § §

Mary Legato Brownell was born and raised in St. Paul and lives now in Philadelphia where she teaches in an independent school. Her sonnets and other poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Pivot, Comstock Review, Margie, and others.

Reprinted from Ink Pot #6; available now

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