March 1, 2014 by The Citron Review
by Helen Wickes
You can hear the farmer with his tractor
humming above the drying winds of March,
the Harrow turning the barren ground.
Then there’s that famous Harrowing of Hell,
often painted as one hand reaching down
from a fleecy cloud-bank to yank a few souls
up to graceland. The newly saved ones blink
in the glare, little ghosts inquiring
what their redeemer means for them
to do now. And during the Mystery Plays,
the Baker’s Guild portrayed the Harrowing best:
masters of fire, smoke, and noxious smells,
they amplified the show with clashing pots
and pans, yearly creating a Hell-on-schedule,
Hell-on-earth, Hell for an evening.
Halloo, howls the spotted Harrier hound,
having treed the squirrel, howling as if
he’d found a long-lost piece of himself.
Which he’ll Harass, nearly to death, so then,
we get to the verb, to Harry: to afflict, what stops
your breath, strikes you dumb, cools your blood,
as in Hark, who goes there?
We’ll stop with Chardin’s dead Hare, stretched out
beside the twined snare that snapped his neck.
You could almost stroke his fur. His breath gone,
his body warm. Easy to imagine there’s still time
for him to escape from Harm, leap from the canvas
and flee to his burrow.
Helen Wickes grew up on a horse farm in Pennsylvania. She lives in Oakland, California, where she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. She received her MFA in 2002 from Bennington College. Her first book of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press.