Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

The Castle You Gave Me

The castle you gave me is too small
for my palm. Too large for the sky.
Too deep for the shell
in the sea. Too quiet for the clearing

where the berries bloom red,
where a child might find
herself singing. Too dark
for the clefts where

the bees push their gold,
too light for snow. Too remote
for wind-swept islands. The castle
you gave me has parapets.

It has a portcullis, a kitchen,
a keep. The pages leap
to the calls of their squires.
The cook strips the boar

of bristles and roasts it
rich. The serving maid
sews goose feathers into
pillows, knowing she will

sleep on straw. And below her,
in the castle yard, more straw
scatters, to soak the piss of horses,
to be stolen for birds’ nests

and mice nests—coarse, yellow,
smudged by mud. That it
bears no resemblance
to the first frail

glowing fields after winter
bothers no one but me,
who keeps searching for a place
for the castle you gave me,

a place that will last, when
nothing lasts, not kingdoms,
not summers, not you. The walls
grow, the walls fall. I’ll keep

looking, Father. I’ll forget to look.
I’ll look all my life, forgetting
to find. No breath without
stones in it, without towers.

Maria Hummel’s poetry collection, House and Fire, won the 2013 APR/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry. She is also the author of three novels, most recently Still Lives, which was published by Counterpoint Press in 2018.