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)