I left. There was another man I loved.
I buckled into his Civic and we shot through fields
in which everything suggested the shape
of something else. Ohio to Michigan,
his football broadcast strained; it fractured
with static. His team would not win half their games
that year, but then, it was still the beginning
of the season, and he could shrug off loss
as easily as he swept dry leaves from the windshield –
still say, what was one slip-up, one bad run?
He tongued strategies and traced plays in lines
on the dashboard’s dust and held my hand
as he might have held a child’s. I let him.
I kept trying to say, We will not last through winter.
Instead, I asked, How long till we’re home?
You’re in a new room with clothes piled on the floor and a TV that doesn’t work. You’re lying in bed, you’re on your side, you hear water running, you hear dogs barking. In this new bed, your muscle memory remains and you go through the motions which are by now instinctual.
It’s a new day in this new bed, but you’d never know if they didn’t tell you, didn’t touch you, didn’t run their hands hot and burning across you, leaving impressions that whisper. This is Saturday. This is the first day of your new life, like it or not. Breakfast won’t be on the table and coffee isn’t ready. You want to go home to your own bed, but you don’t get that, you get this bed, this Saturday, dogs barking and that water still running.
You keep waking up like this and you aren’t even sure where your own bed is anymore. If home is where the heart is, then in that home there is a bed where you think you left your heart, at least you’re praying hard that it’s there because you can’t keep retracing your steps and getting it wrong and slamming into new beds and bodies. But you’re here now and whatever you have beating in your chest is giving a soliloquy, and it’s as trite as a sunset or a picnic on the beach or a long walk on a short pier or whatever you’ve been told love is, so maybe this is home for now, maybe this is just what you need.
You are in a new bedroom and it’s Saturday and the TV doesn’t work but you keep staring at it like it’s playing your favorite movie and you recite all the lines and they think you’re clever, but what do they know? What did you ever really know besides how to kiss a little harder and just what to say to end up in a new room with clothes piled on the floor and a TV that doesn’t work?
My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree Toward heaven still… –Robert Frost, After Apple Picking
I only saw it once,
though saw is an exaggeration.
It was something less than a glimpse,
some insignificant wisp of a passing idea
at the far end of my peripheral vision,
the blurred silhouette of a hawk
carrying in its talons
the blurred silhouette of a bird.
This was after I had found
the first feathers,
and then, twice, blue jays’,
feathers arranged neatly on the ground
in the shape of a starfish
or a God’s Eye.
That was all;
no plucked, hollow-boned body,
Just a composition of feathers
there on the grass
beneath the feeders,
a talking circle,
the ritual of What is left unsaid,
the hawk lifting
the plucked and keening body
and perhaps the talking feather too,
leaving the rest behind,
as if the hawk’s ascension toward heaven
were affirmation that
when you are carried away
you must shed everything,
what you have said,
what it was you meant to say,
and, yes, even your
lovely, momentary feathers.
Grandad’s not got
Anything to do today
‘Cept sit around his checker set
And wait on old Pop Lundry to come down
Off Cooper’s Ridge to play.
I watched him rock
Away this morning talking
To his bird dog Bellaret.
She don’t leave the front porch much, now, either
‘Cept when they go out walking.
And just as dusk
Collects along the valley’s rim
All the boys and young men come
To listen and be hypnotized by tales
Of how the valley is and has always been.
“Eighty-eight years old
And the Keenus Bridge collapsed!
One righteous groan at Mandy Wheeler’s weight
(Mammoth Mandy’s six hundred pounds of fat)
Then rubble sixteen feet below.
Her screams were heard from Willisville
To Fiddler’s graveyard (fifteen miles apart).
And it took two good mules
A hard days work to pull
Her from the mud.”
And he enchants them
With the miners and the whores
With the wild side of the mountain,
The ridge wise boys, the foothill clowns
And the troubadors.
“The people haven’t danced in Willisville
Since Charlie Waters coughed himself
Black lung until
And he was young!
Younger than the ages of collected things….
His nickel dates rented the parlor
And his white gold watch
Doesn’t wear him any longer
At the stem.
Because we hocked it!
We hocked it for the band
(The Keenus Creek Quartet)
And they played “Barbara Allen” as we planned
And planted Charlie in the ground.”
So go now,
Down from these older mountains
And listen to the valley sage
“He’s a good ol’ boy”
Pulling at his pipe and telling lies – counting
All the ways he didn’t make it rich.
“’47 was a bitch!
I lost my cotton to the bug,
My dog to endless age
And my farm to Jimmy Lundry’s poker game.
Boy – pass me that ther’ jug
Yes sir – ’47 was a year!”