two larks

our father named us both Lark—

the pastor at our baptism said

‘Lark songs delivered in flight’

and we shared an attic bed for eighty-three years

long after Our Father and Our Mother had passed

because their room was haunted

their stern portraits above their bed the eyes blinking


we filled it with detritus empty soup cans and papers

and things from the dump in the woods

beyond the blueberry bog the sluices of spring water

from before the Revolutionary War

poison bottles and handblown glass we thought we’d sell

and pistol balls and once a rusted sword


the one cow left we called Seven

that old Moe fed hay and the pears and crabapples

the ancient pear trees barely bloomed anymore

the shallow pond filled with dead cats

the dam long since collapsed

the forest we named Althea


and the Lark songs in flight had tea and doll parties

in our sentient New England woodland our Althea

the smell of pine needles-sponge earth-bergamot

and purple lilacs and bunchberry

and she kept a bear and one moose lived up there

sharing the blueberries in season


then Lark fell sick she stopped eating

electricity long since gone the lamps from 1640

brought to blaze again then no oil

and the long dark nights the freezing nights

trapped smoke from racoon-filled chimneys

the hot summer nights and mosquitoes

filling rooms and fleas of the living cats


on the day my sister starved, 1987,

Old Moe gone to see family in Michigan

we lay in the featherbed shapes carved by decades

and listened to our dead folks talking below

and the New Hampshire bluecoat soldiers in the parlor

the ancient Indians smoking and knapping blades

their babies napping in birchbark beds


then Lark flew my hand on her heaving chest

then still then slowly the trees got eaten I remember

I could hear the crunching of mandibles

in three-four time and Althea screaming from pain

I remember the leaves green to yellow to brown

the branches black to gray to ash

the gypsy moths flooding the mountains

removing Althea’s clothes I remember

and naked she bent to the ground I remember

then the bear and the moose and the cow fled


from the gnash-gnash-gnash

the family’s gravestones the moss dried up

Lark lying back of the fence for Moe to bury

with teacups and doll’s legs Lark calling Lark: sistersistersister

in the gnash-gnash-gnash

but I was paralyzed wings buried in blankets

sisteersistersister dead summer

soaked and marinating the bed drowning

and eaten fell to gnash-gnash-gnash


under the spell of gypsy moths








About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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