A Poetry Sporadical of Repeating Forms

Now the Evening Deepens

—November 1963

by Zara Raab

Churning on snow-bound roads,
inching upward, eastward,
our rusting Ford draws near.
Fir trees blaze in all the yards,  
        by the white-limbed lindens.
Deep in these woods we found
the bruised body of our father’s son,
his long coat a snow-white shroud,  
       now the evening deepens.

Once he ranked top in his class,
I.Q. 160 +
in calculus, in trig, the rest,
math wizard, fast runner—
        well, praise only deafens.
What mask, then, does he wear,
profile etched, icy, clear
while enfeebled, he lies here
        as the evening darkens?

Like Icarus he fell to the sea,
then, sputtering with broken wing,
emerged to scorn and ignominy
on the shores of the city.
        He feeds at soup kitchens,
smokes and potters here and there,
never weds, grows ever thinner,
shedding the urge to grow, to conquer
        when the evening darkens.

In our world, each knows the other,
and not simply brother, brother;
cousin, cousin; sister, sister,
so the proud, pot-bellied mayor
        often fondly mentions.
Here one can’t slip the noose of fate,
here one’s offenses will be weighed,
philanderer, idler, cheapskate,
        now the evening darkens.

You do it only once—“Come of Age.”
Failing that you hide your face in shame.
Why not come of age once a decade?
Consider this mandate for change  
        in these reborn heavens.
Even an old man’s tattered body
is elastic, may fast, fight, or flee.
Let no man fall only to grief
        when evening darkens.

Snow fills the winter air: whirling,
muffling sound, the wheels spinning;
the engine in its hood is ticking.
We in our wool coats are hurrying
        to bear the pine coffins.
Snow makes lilies of the pasture
undisturbed, this dead of winter,
in the cold darkness of this hour,
        now the evening deepens.

Zara Raab lives in Berkeley, but she grew up on the North Coast, where her ancestors farmed, raised cattle and harvested tan oak. Her poems appear in River Styx, Crab Orchard Review, Evansville Review, and elsewhere. Her reviews appear online in Rattle, Colorado Review, Critical Flame, and in print at Boxcar Poetry Review and Raven Chronicle. Her most recent book of poems is Swimming the Eel (David Robert Books, 2011). Visit her website.


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