Mark Conway

1. Coming In

from The Book of Isaac, Burning


I will let him come freely into my presence
and he can come close to me;
who else, indeed, would risk his life
by coming close to me?


Before this life,
there was another, so
convincing in its ignorant display
of rain and lowlands
we thought it might
go on forever. We were
mistaken, in fact,
forgiven, you see, in that life
we were young.


             Now nights
my son wonders
what was here before he came,
I could tell him
it was March. I remember
pitted snow,
the rotten roads.


For weeks the prairie sky
was the dead-color of clay, then
gashed by firelight – flames
from the distant
burning cities, remember?


There was a turmoil in the broken snow
fields, like the narrowing
in the coming night. He is young, once
I was young and from the slim
candlelight of late dinner
he became.


                    Red, red the opened mouth,
shaped-valentine – laughing,
and then he came.



“1. Coming In” (from The Book of Isaac, Burning) was first published in The Journal, Spring, 2003.