Placed atop the bed sheet,
his lovely soulful hands,
mapped in deep indigo veins,
the long expressive fingers,
this was where his humanness
would reside the longest.
Placed atop the bed sheet,
I am thrilled that the online poetry journal “A Quiet Courage” has published three of my poems, linked here.
Make sure to click on the link beneath the text of each poem to the Eva Cassidy song “Fields of Gold” for it serves as perfect accompaniment.
Thank you for coming along on my ride, dear reader.
This by William Brewer. The last two lines are perhaps the best of all —
Storms are generous.
Something so easy to surrender to, sitting by the window,
and then you step out into the garden you were so bored of,
so bored of you hated it,
but now it needs you.
Twang of the rake’s metal tines biting at the dirt.
You destroy a little camp of mushrooms,
pull leaves into a pile,
are struck with wonder
when there rolls out
a little bird’s nest—
the garden’s brain.
You want to hide in it.
Twigs, mud, spit, and woven in:
a magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun,
a sway of color you’ve seen before.
You were a boy.
You told your grandfather you spotted a snake in the yard between the buckeyes.
He revved his weed whacker,
conjured a rose mist from the grass
that swelled in the breeze, swirled together, grew dark,
shifting through fans of sun,
magenta, then plum, blush, gone.
Smell of exhaust. Tannins of iced tea
you drank together on the porch later,
his spiked with Wild Turkey,
the tumbler resting on his thigh,
the ice-sweat running off, smearing the dried snake juice,
pooling in a divot of scar tissue.
A souvenir, he called it,
from the winter spent sleeping in a hole in the ground in a Belgian wood,
listening for German voices to start singing
so he knew he could sleep.
It is the thing you never expected.
Didn’t think to guard against.
Mail drops in through the slot a full year after
with his name on it.
It hits the ground with a gotcha. The one bullet remaining.
The one gaping mouth you forgot to shut.
Grief slipping in seamlessly through the front door
when you had worked so hard to seal up every crack.
I can’t step into a church without being reminded of Leo.
I see him, leaning heavily on his cane, waiting in the vestibule
to usher the parishioners to their seats,
his labored gait up the aisle, one leg stiff,
the shoulder of his Canadian Legion jacket strewn
with medals and ribbons.
In the stillness the rubber tip of his cane
squeaks loudly against the polished floor.
The star resident at her mother’s boarding-house,
my friend Linda said we should visit him.
and there had been toffees promised.
Restless and bored one spring day I relented,
followed Linda home and climbed the stairs lazily to Leo’s room.
Unlike the others his door was open.
There was Leo, lying on his bed, his cane alongside,
rest the only respite from his affliction.
Come in, close the door.
Feed my bird Charlie.
I worried then about telling my mother this.
But Leo wasn’t a stranger.
Everyone knew Leo.
Father Blackwell told us in catechism class
it was men like Leo who had kept us free.
The shabby room smelled of wet wool
from clothes drying on the radiator
and of Old Sail, his pipe tobacco.
A bowl of sweets beckoned by the bed.
Charlie was bustling about in his cage.
Sit beside Leo, honey.
A good Catholic girl, I did as the hero said.
The bristles of his beard stung my face,
his breath turned to a rasp.
I smelled something fetid on his breath.
When he released me
Charlie was singing,
Come and read about my jackknife for my father in the dusk of a summer evening many years ago… delighted to see it published on Poetry Breakfast today.
The obligatory backpacks bought,
The sectioned notebooks and the cornucopia of Sharpies,
Heralding the dull march back to classrooms, schedules.
In its forlorn wake a trail of
Unhurried pancake breakfasts
And lying perfectly still on a sun-scorched dock,
Until perhaps trailing a finger,
But only one.
Boats pulled out for the season
Children rushing to school
And like a switch was flipped overnight
The water in the bay now darker
She may not read any of this
But her silence edits everything I write.
The flourishes and rhetoric she would red line.
So, too, any pretension or the slightest falseness.
Just tell the story,
I hear her say, quietly.
It is what you are here for.
He would sit under the kitchen table
About an hour before each mid-week transfer.
Just sit, wrapped up in himself.
Quietly, not even petulantly.
Resignation in the set of his shoulders,
A look in his eyes
Not of sadness, but worse,
This new poem is about choosing to not look away, but to notice.
Painful, yes, and there are easier choices. But it seems to me I have never had a choice. Perhaps others feel the same. And out of this decision to simply not look away comes so much, in ways I have no doubt are untold.
No One Wants to Fail.
From the cart behind me
I hear the commotion.
The little boy refuses to bend his knees
So his mother can place him
In the child’s seat in front.
Another child tugs at her skirt.
But she has had enough.
The shopping trip is sacrificed.
She yanks them through the exit doors,
Her face set in anger.
The boy will wish he had obeyed.
His sister will see it all unfold.
The mother will wish it was otherwise
But feel powerless to make it so.
Who among us
Wants to fail.