After the rain, we get slices
of the grey and yellow world
which slip through the earnest bunches of acorns
in sheets of diffuse, papery light.
To the west of campus simple houses
propagate drifts of dust and applewood in the dusk.
Creaking floorboards in an upstairs room
echo the frogs croaking around an unkempt pond.
In the late-night murmur of two people,
faraway things are slowly dislodged from their cellar places
and brought to the light of a lampshade embroidered
with clusters of broken cobwebs.
To the east there is a railroad,
lying low in the summer among the tall prickly grasses,
where freights cry out
and race against their solitude through the woodland.
They get to be in the best places –
where there has never been a human being.
Encased in frosted glass,
this is paradise from a scripture not yet written.
We watch the hours bobbing in the light
like small apples in a barrel full of old rainwater
because most of us don’t watch the news.
Something flashes on a screen – and we remember
that when someone discharges his rounds, they eat
through necks and haunches
burrowing tunnels through school lunches and lungs,
a trapped exhale.
The world outside Amherst feels like a small post-mortem photograph
featuring an unnamed, beady-eyed subject with ragdoll limbs,
yellow and grey like the light, obscured by the dust on its surface,
detached from the wall and stuck in the baseboard.
Forgetting is easy.
I can almost unsee the human vulgarities
through the relentless greenery.
The upper air is slight.
Full of sounds,
rising and falling like gnats in the warm wind.
They catch the unsustaining offshoots of the setting sun.
Stasis: a false presumption, dispatched.
These wafts, imperceptible by the extant senses,
disappear when we look for them,
just as the Andromeda galaxy spinning towards us
fades into a cloud when we search for its guiltless face.
A “cosmic pile-up.” Four billion years to live.
A quiet fear grows in me like a seedling:
Time in Amherst moves too slow, too fast,
at an odd angle like light caught in a mirror.
Clocks tap hemiolas against earthly rhythms.
Sometimes a deep beat in a distant room reverberates
with no context, a sacrificial ritual
moving closer and closer, like our own valediction to this place.
Did its gold leaf crumble?
Did the oil run out, leaving gapping doors and apertures?
Uncanny valley but for place, not person.
I think I got it too good:
7 o’clock in the evening,
looking out to the plush upholstery of the woods to the south,
wide spring beds and carpeted hallways.
Is someone going to take this away,
like an unfinished dinner plate in a polite household?
Moreover: I know I will leave different than I came in,
but I don’t know in what way.
Like going under a timber truss bridge:
some unknown evolution taking place,
pebbles and macroinvertebrates passing through a stream,
bold, naked, altered but unawares
save that they passed,
the cold torrent rushing their bodies.
So will I: wade among the pine needles,
savour the mulch smell, as the distant drum gets closer yet,
gulping the saturated air from the heavy skies.
Dismissal: Fogs over Amherst
The fogs over Amherst were morose and brooding,
like a clergyman distressed by his most human faculties.
I watched the nothing of the night
grow through a crack in the window shade.
I watched nothing
but the grey washed-out airspace
melding with the enormous black corpus of the plantlife
and the moon with its bleak halo
wide-eyed and dutiful over a small domain.
A single star.
Things can be bucolic and brimming with energy
in other times and places –
deep sunshine over pumpkins,
immortal coils of mud rising above the plump body of the earth,
leaves quivering as though they are one big gooseflesh –
but these things are not here, not now.
Rather, a pale, fruitless joy
descending from the boreas
strewing its weightless tissues
over the ebb and flow of foot-fall paths
through the wet grass along the boggy slopes,
no meat nor hair, no flop nor dangle nor amiss,
a forlorn carcass of the air,
a source of light but not a sense of vis,
with neither taste nor temperature,
no dolor and no bliss:
the nothing over us, descending.
Sofia Belimova is an English major at Amherst College.
Photo courtesy of the author.