Two Poems—Jack B. Bedell

Ruskin and the Children at Chamonix

He brings them down into the valley
         one at a time, hoping they will have

words to make their local ghost
         real to him. It’s always shocking

how little fear the children hold
         for the apparition. They accept her

spirit as if it were a squirrel gathering
         food along the trail, always disappointed

in him for not being able to see the woman
         raking leaves in front of them, her back

bent into the labor. They know this is
         a lonely place, though, and will only go

so close to the ghost before they beg him
         to leave the grand-mère to her work.

The children have no heart to stare
         into her bare skull’s holes, no need

to disturb the secrets she has pulled
         into piles around her feet.

Ruskin and the Devil’s Rain

Even as the drops cackled against his front
         windows, he could never allow himself

to retreat into the house’s warmth. Always,
         the draw of thunder and winds arguing 

through the front orchard kept him pressed
         against the scene like breath on glass.

This living rain pulsed. It growled and slandered
         in dark bursts. Whether lightning ripped

overhead or not, he could feel the shape
         of an old man leaned against tree trunks

across the way, staring toward his home.
         This storm always came hungry

and would not leave until he felt its want
         marry his own. Desire. Desire and sheets

of rain he dared not touch, insistent
         as the lap dogs nosing his pants 

in hopes of one more bone to get them
         through the throes of that night’s noise.

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017–2019.

photo by Yann Lauener (via unsplash)