Ben Debus

So We Pooled Our Money and Went All of Us in a Car East towards Appalachia
by Ben Debus

The road’s rising pulled our car forward, like a throat
drawing in a flake of coal with the clear mountain air.
Everything was contrast: climbs and sudden falls;
thick woods opening on hills stretched to the earth’s edge;
the fear of veering, tumbling end over end into a vale—
but even this mixed with a desire to die
from my old life, to live as I never thought I could,
alone, upon a mountain slope with nothing but quiet and time
and a fire and the dark. Leaves flickered at the road’s edge
like fire, the colors that range from top to bottom
of a candle-flame. The hills were motley, swatches of tree-tops
the deep coral of chimney-brick at dawn, the rust-haze
of a harvest moon, plum-brandy spilled on linen.
Leaf-ships sailed the wind. And the wind came as it comes,
invisible itself, its sound the rattle of what it moves through,
and it shook through the leaves like a woman’s hand
brushing her husband’s hair, his head in her lap, his coughing
up blood abated, wheezing settled, panic sinking
as his chest rises, falls, and rises with the stroke of her hands,
that rhythm, repetition, swish of hands, that soft sound carving out
an eddy in time, her hands in his hair as calm as the autumn trees
above the ground in which he’ll rest—

the wind was a woman’s hands.

It was a man’s hands—it was a million, million ghostly hands
reaching out from some place beyond time, some opening
onto the dead lands, the leaves brightened with the last flush
of living as those hands moved through them, groping
as hands will for whatever they can in the dark.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1.

Ben-Debus-SqBen Debus is pursuing a PhD in medieval literature at Indiana University, where he was awarded an MFA in poetry in 2008. His poems have appeared most recently in Fairy Tale Review, Lumina, and The Cincinnati Review. He lives in Bloomington, IN with his wife, poet Cate Whetzel, and their son.

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