“Among the Yellows, the Faces Slack” by Charlotte Pence

Charlotte Pence


My grandfather died
from slicing a hive in half.
An accident. A nest
hidden in a log. A blade
thinned to a dead end.
What followed was a blur
of bees. A man running
wild. Arms twice
as thick as normal. Neck—
vibrating outside in.
He died before my birth,
which is maybe why
I imagine this:
a hundred split hexagons
shining, licked gold,
stirring with eggs, drips,
pollen-dusted legs.
Yellow slits, like lit
apartment windows
when darkness first creeps.
Inside, strangers stirring
about their lives. Who hasn’t
paused, peering in too long,
hoping to see—what is
it exactly? The clicks and hums
they make twirling their little
lives into order? The circles
with which they wash skillets.
The curve with which they read
the news. The figure-eights
with which they rinse
a toddler’s hands. Shapes
and slices of what we cannot
know. Still, we stand
on that sidewalk, staring in,
waiting for something.
And suddenly a man pushes
from his chair, rushes
toward a sound, mouth open,
arms outstretched to catch.
We guess he won’t make it
in time, we jerk forward,
trying to see what
is just beyond us.
Trying to clarify with a honed
blade. A sure swing.
A clean cut into the beautiful
trudge of daily duties,
into that space within ourselves
the hopeful once called souls.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014


Charlotte Pence: “I’m sure I’m not the only one who has looked through a home’s windows before the blinds are turned for the night. Apartment buildings are especially interesting. I’m seeing something that I wouldn’t be able to see if everyone knew I was looking. Yet, I’ve never seen anything more exciting than people going about their daily duties. More often than not, I see slumped figures. Exhausted figures forcing themselves up from a chair to wash a plate or let out the dog. And it’s those acts that intrigue me because they are the stuff that make up our lives. As the poem remembers, my grandfather died from performing a mundane task he didn’t want to do. Somehow these simple duties of living, which can overwhelm and feel so pointless, are what matter the most.” (website)

Rattle Logo