Matt Roth

No Mark

There was a high stone wall separating our land—
the small yard, half sand, where my father once grew
tomatoes—from the royal preserve. Years ago,
I was told, the king himself hunted there
among well-ordered trees, made camp by the stream
that coils through its heart. There was even—still it’s there,
though overgrown—a small orchard of sweet peaches
and apricots. Now thickets lie stripped by a tangle of deer,
the high wall overthrown by slow degrees of frost
and thaw. Many days, I have stepped through a breach,
found myself in that odd, forbidden state,
my own and not my own. Once beneath
the government of a twin row of sycamores,
I found the hoofprints of a horse,
each shallow C filled in with tarnished bronze.
Amazed, I followed, until the hooves stopped short
in a clearing by the edge of a small reflecting pool.
A stone in its middle made it look like a human eye.
To one side a thick-trunked magnolia leaned.
This must have been April. The water was clotted
with pink, fleshy petals. I stood wondering
when all at once the surface cleared a moment,
and I started at the sudden flare of my face
peering into the pool, or well, or deep oubliette,
where I lay staring up at the shadowed face,
which hovered like a stone in the sky’s open eye.
Somehow I knew, whoever it was,
he had not come to save me.