The backyard swing a rare space of pendulum
intimacy. It was just the nearby
car dealership extravaganza-ing
the dusk, spotlights twirling the sky, but Dad
said, I think a giant in heaven’s lost his dog.
Before we had an air conditioner,
we’d sleep flip-flopped, our heads at the foot
of our beds, to better catch the breeze
oozing through the windows. I remember
a helicopter’s spotlight sweeping
the neighborhood—Ma said they were looking
for a runaway kid, and when the beam
lit up the squares of my windowscreen,
I worried the runaway might be me.
All around our block, a fine blend
of January fog and chimney smoke.
The flashlight’s beam gropes and scans
tree-undersides, a pillar of luminous
steam. Shine it directly on the sky
and something stops it, definite and unseen.
Janaf, Pembroke, Military Circle,
somewhere or other, I withdrew
from the movie and sought its source, above
and behind us: tube of light twisting
from the projector like a swimmer.
It spread into a cone, larger
and paler near the screen, where the story
assembled, and all the heads enrapt:
tilted back slightly, collective, inverted bow.
Guilfoyle and Wojcik invite students
to get high and smell the new screens. Up close,
the surface is white and scaled, and the chemical
divine. It won’t last forever, this newness-buzz—
over the years, the aromatic skin
will be worn by light, by images of ourselves.
Thinking of Virginia in New York
Seeing the dead, mind guides itself
into anti-, considers an ice dam’s
cycle of melt-freeze-melt-freeze.
Already the birthplace is gone.
The soul is the mind’s fault, the mind
the body’s, on up and up the list
of signatures, tangled in breakneck.
If I am the whore of nosotrostalgia,
then seagulls divebomb the dark beyond
the surf. Leave the water in the muck.
Stopwatch the tripped-out ripples.
A grist of phone calls swirls above the bay.
The salt-foam glazes, settles into grit.
Them seagulls mingle, nibble on trash.
To slip out our neighborhood the backway, past
the pasture, down Bonney Road, past
Wedgewood Trailer Park; to park feet away
from the 7-11’s door, take a five, give
it to the clerk, say, Two packs of Vantage
Ultra Lights, please. They’re for my dad, then gesture
to the truck, still running, his thick wrist on the wheel
Willie on the radio; to see his fingers raise
in acknowledgement—in those days,
that sort of thing was alright.
2. “I thought I could see the future, but when I looked I saw the past”
My boy not yet born to the conscious
world, I dreamt Dad died last night.
As guests hovered past for the headshake,
the mutterance, the hand on his body,
the nod, he’d open his eyes
wide, all black, murky, lolling
in the sockets. His ex-, my mother,
cradled his head, and he almost grinned.
His lids slid together, and I,
somehow, was to speechify.
3. Douthat State Park, 1984
The men went for a hike, got lost,
trudged back at dusk, relief
finding camp, embarrassment
at having to, one of their sons
near tears for what he thought
was nightly news loss, another
still throwing rocks at squirrels, and when
he dropped one as big as his head
on a frog in the lake-edge,
he raised his arms and roared.
~return to poetry home