The Plain Speech

After twenty years the love we make
we braid into the hair of the day.
Sometimes I watch each stitch in the quilt

white hairs pecking the days out,
sometimes I cry and stop you
to talk about death. Still you start

telling your beads of memory
into my hand. That day
next to the slough
you say

we napped in the car. Buffalo cows
stepped out of the rocks, stopped the calves
in a half-circle behind us. We could not move

or turn. They loomed at us out of the mirrors.
You wrap me in this story, a man coming home
coat full of red cyclamen. Clay strung to the roots.

After some struggle to find the true north of their lives
great and small wings return. White-throated sparrow
slow beat of cranes crossing Dakota. Orioles take

fruit we have left on a human plate. Like a farmer
suppressing his muscles for church, behind you
the uncurtained window, beside you the iron bed

you stand in your black pants, shirtsleeves,
a patch of wrinkles smelling of damp and the iron.
You call to me in the plain speech we use at home.

         Answer me earth, mercy.
         Answer me rain.

Mary Rose O’Reilley writes poetry, essays, and fiction. Her books include Half Wild and The Love of Impermanent Things. She lives in Saint Paul.