Steve Fay

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet

The Window Sash Opened . . .


. . . onto broken basilicas of hickory hulls on the sill, the grass in the meadow lodged heavily in dew, a half moon of fog settled between the islands of tamarack fragrant with rot.


A pen was scratching in the other room, but not with the invisible ink she had learned to make as a child, from the sap of a stolen tulip.  How else to write the secret words she hid like promises, under moss, in the crevices of dead wood, that August when the summer kitchen had caught fire and the wasps swarmed from it like excited sparks leaping from stirred coals. 


And he, too, as a neighbor boy, was there batting at them with a board, to keep them, he said, from stinging the younger of the gathered children.  And this morning he writes postcards in the east-facing room, while drinking monarda tea.  And he will never say what she would say about that story.  About anything else, he could never.  The fog having risen to join the belly of cloud, to reveal the squall-splintered elm.


Standing at the open window, she recalls the dream she had the day of their arrival, and almost doesn't hear him drive the rented car away to mail the cards to friends back home.  Now back in her dream, she leans against a tree, and puts her ear to it, to hear its beating heart. 


Soon that tree becomes part man.  And pressing fingers firmly, she reaches a hand inside him.  And, after a moment, that feels like falling through the paragraphs of a book, she finds all of herself inside, among the tender and transparent fibers she had felt.  And when she looks all around, she discovers her waving hands, far above, nearly lost among the leaves.


When the man she'd known since childhood returned from the town, he brought her a letter from her mother.  He brought her a box of ginger-smelling cookies shaped like windmills.  He found her in the cottage's workshop, planing a board that looked to him like larchwood.  How silently he nodded, to see the clean and curly shavers, as they rose consecutively from the plane's ancient mouth. 

About the poem:  as shared by the poet

Is this the revision of the abandoned poems two or three snippets of imagery were formerly used in?  Did this poem open out of the hickory hulls I have in a bowl in a different room from where I am typing this?  Is this poem a product of some intense reading of poets from generations prior to and after my own?  Is this poem another stab at my long inquiries into the nature of the line, into the spaces within narratives, into the inevitable spaces between people, into the spaces where memory fails but which imagination can transcend?  If I saw a shed burn as people watched and wasps swarmed, when I was a child, is this autobiography?  The answers to ALL of these questions are NO, but partly YES.  For me every poem raises more questions than it answers. Almost more than can be tallied.  And I have left out the inquiries into dreams and into transformations, of which I know so little about, as if they are territories quite beyond me.  But when a window is opened perhaps the answers are on one side or the other of that portal. 

Steve Fay’s collection what nature: Poems was published by Northwestern University Press. His poetry has appeared in Ascent, Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, Hamilton Stone Review, Moving Force Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, and other journals and anthologies. 

-- now accepting submissions for the next issue -- 

© Pine Row Press | privacy policy