Ellie Stanford

Two Common Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Oh hours of childhood, when behind each shape more than the past appeared, 
and what streamed out before us was not the future.
    —Rilke, Fourth Elegy

I ride backwards on the train, facing where I’m coming from, gritty town
of numbered streets, March with its muddy footprints, saying,
not so fast. The book on my lap illuminated in the window. Rilke
spread ghostly over the chemical plants of North Jersey, over the smoke
cocooning in the sky and disappearing. Rilke
and his adolescent longing no one leaves behind, except
in longing more.

We fought before I left. Now, the boys in bed,
you pour cachaça in a glass. Crush the ice
and lime, stir in the sugar with a knife.

Each intensifies the other—lime’s bruised peel,
sugar echoing the ice’s hard clarity.

The pleasure’s in not yielding.

The light is slipping from the loading docks and storage lockers,
behind the pawn shops and the strip clubs. You enter our sons’ room
to watch them sleeping. Mouths agape, limbs entwined.
On the dresser, in a tin can’s makeshift vase, the flowers
I picked earlier, their bells drooping.

In the living room, you slip your parents’ old record
from its sleeve. Stan Getz in his yellow starched lapels,
the saxophone’s brass slouch. Even though it’s dark,
I know these last few miles: marsh grass and mud,
and the long tunnel. You lower the needle. What streams out
is gently tongued regret, so many variations on a single note.