Poetry: At Dusk when I Hear an Arrow by Nicole Stockburger

Nicole Stockburger writes in investigation of the evocative “crow-flying hour”—to fill the shape of a absent you with words, with mountains and fire and birds. “At Dusk when I Hear an Arrow” explains: time is never enough to fill the hole on its own.


At Dusk when I Hear an Arrow

It would be too simple to think
of swallowing the sun,

to take in the last of the crow-flying hour,
and suck its metal like oysters.

Too much to ask to marry you
after the soil wrapped its heavy quilt
around our bodies, left us marked with clay.

I could drift into the blue
of these mountains, like the eye of a fire,
douse the squash in kerosene.

For this, I believe I’ve started
to understand you

when you wrote, Summer’s coming,
love. Summer’s coming like an old-
time song, though you hate the way

those melodies have no origin,
no end. I want to tell you

the pipes are frozen, but let me explain:
I hunched in the furrow of the hill
one sundown in a ballad

of anxious days. Time moved unforgiving
in the way the creek appears
to never change, like glass.

Then, whitetails lapping against
the bruising sky like wooden paddles.
I thought I could leave and never disturb

a living thing again. I understand now
how the stubborn fields

and the busted cabin windows
and the late summer lightning, an arrow

piercing lavender skies, and the clean sound of cicadas
breaking into bits in the toad’s mouth
and the final hours when morning is less

a prayer than a haunting and all of this
is never enough and somehow still
enough to keep you here.



Nicole Stockburger

Nicole Stockburger is the author of Nowhere Beulah, winner of the Unicorn Press First Book Competition (forthcoming November 2019). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Journal, The Southeast Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others. Receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Nicole lives in NC foothills, where she and her partner are the farmers of York Farm. The title of this poem is borrowed from a line in Frank Stanford's "Linger."

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