by Doug Ramspeck

My mother used to say she lived for those few moments
of wonder.  She meant birds.  Mist in mountains.  Green waves.

And always it seemed she clotted wounds with words,
so many flung atop the next.  The joke in the family

was that when she asked her doctor what had caused
the arthritis in her jaw, he answered “overuse.”  The dead

know the names of things, I think, not the soft names
but the hard ones, like river stones or the jagged edges

of quarries.  And the dead leave us artifacts inside our dreams.
Once I reached for a green tomato on a windowsill.  It was

the size and shape of a heart.  As hard and heavy as a brick.
My mother said
bite into it, bite into it, and so I did.
Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 14, Number 1
(Spring 2019)

Copyright © 2019
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

by Doug Ramspeck

Because the horses beyond the fence droop their heads
in mourning—or so I tell myself today—I am thinking
about the way a life grows heavy on the limbs,
like the plum tree in the backyard of the first house
where I lived separately from my parents.  That tree bore
such abundant fruit that it dragged down the branches
until they nearly scraped the dirt, prostrate and burdened
by their own fecundity.  Today I parked the car at the roadside
so I could watch the horses feeding on grass taller
than a child’s head.  The years, these days, bow down in supplication.
They are not prayers of closed eyes and clenched fists.  They are
clear-eyed prayers, servile prayers.  Their heaviness is formed
by the accumulation of breaths, by the bellow lungs of horses
that, in morning’s cold, form little handkerchiefs of clouds.

by Doug Ramspeck

The family in the house to our east
is in mourning.  The mother of a young
girl has had a second miscarriage.

And a V of geese squawks above the roof
where I lie half-sleeping beside my wife.

Once, as a child, I imagined that winter
turned the world blind.  Everywhere
was white erasure.  Our lives became like
pressing through a snowstorm.

But yesterday I saw a three-legged coyote
trot across the field behind our house.

There is something servile in watching
from a window.  We are at the mercy of it all.

My neighbors were out in the driveway not
even a week ago.  I waved hello.  The wife removed
the hand cupping her belly and waved back.

The coyote, yesterday, seemed unaware
that anything was amiss.  It moved at
the same speed as its four-legged companion.

Listen: the geese today are otherworldly.
The geese know nothing of our lives.  They are
impulse and sensation and sound.  They are not
memory.  They are the vibration in the air.


Doug Ramspeck is the author of six poetry collections and
one collection of short stories.  His most recent book of poems,
Black Flowers, was published by LSU Press at Louisiana
State University in 2018.  Ramspeck’s poetry has appeared in
The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Slate, The
Georgia Review
, and other journals.  He is a two-time
recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award
and an associate professor at The Ohio State University at
Lima, where he teaches creative writing.   

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