Poetry by Rachael
Almost 100 outside. I stand on an old Oriental rug spread on blacktop driveway. Soap it, hose it, marveling at weave’s density, absorbency of these million threads, packed tight by hands half a world, years away. A rug hatched from unraveled cocoons of worms, who ate mulberry leaves, three quarters of a planet away. Here, I stand, dogs spread like drying fish on the sluiced-cool driveway, my naked toes dig into knap. Clouds of brown water, suds, rise, surface, drain ditchward. I wrestle weighty rug, flip it, consider the artist whose initials I see knotted into the fringe. I work to wash away sins, vomits, urine, nightmares, cellar must and mold. Colors reveal, gleam soft gold that will cushion feet. Chickadees tweedle in spruce curtains, attracted by spray...I know of a rug place where carpets scrubbed by push broom gleam beneath water. I feel what I do to be correct. Magic returns. Weavings endure. Layers of past dribble down the ditch, away, my shoulders flex, neck stiffens. I spray my face, the car, the panting dogs. A tapestry, a life rescued. I aim hose into trees, thumb over nozzle, adorn them, water-beaded like Christmas. Chickadees sip drips. One lands on my shoulder, a brief gratitude. Quick, wings’ flourish, we continue our separate lives.
Red brick building just outside Madison
empty now, might’ve been an auto repair shop once. “Hinman 1935”
read some arched letters incised over its door. Cool, dark
cavernous depths in summer, a dusty,
oiled black floor. Where men worked,
maybe brothers. Grease-stained fingernails
Ivory never would’ve done.
Clamped Camels between
thin smoking lips after supper…listen
marbles, hopscotch, a fat-tired bicycle
bounces past, streamers, clothes-pins
The men work on a Woody, Franklin, a Model T,
radio tuned to the crackle of Game. Everyone shuffles around
it after work. Girls wear strapless sun-dresses, sunburn. Lemonade’s spiked.
Sweaty undershirts. Pinochle champeens.
kids gambol through dusk, chasing fire-flies,
Mason jars. Before we entered the second World War.
Before the oldest veterans who marched in the Parade
fought brother against brother 1865.
Before the Great Western Turnpike was dotted with
rusty yellow-blue battle signs to tell the tale. “Hinman 1935” explicit, simple.
Before gasoline cost 25 cents a gallon.
Before when dogs caught rabies,
Across the ocean, genocide. Families starved in camps. Extermination.
My grandfather secreted antibiotics between boxed, dried beans he sent. He searched
Germany for his wife’s Jewish physician, his friend, Doktor Wolff
who delivered my mother at their home, his best buddy
he got drunk with after in celebration after.
Sheer pewter layers loving
down upon the land, lavender
wings, roseate West, sun says
"Sweet dreams, Spring." Hum,
tires rounding pavement, lean
into the wind, the colors, tree
frogs' trill, late birds flit,
one last worm dangling
from beak, silhouette before
sleep. A pebble clinks
off fender, i see spark
or perhaps an early
firefly answering code,
beginning his long crawl up
beech trunk, pampas stalk.
To flash, flash and die,
Empty husk to lie, to mix.
Cottonball sky, backdropped
enamel blue. The herds fan out
above me I swear the shepherd
a bristling border collie, all business
no nonsense, must lurk to nip
their heels as they race for the sunlight
just beyond my vision's possibility.
Ragged scrub reminiscent of the word
"gorse" scratches to escape earth's hold
on root, envious of the softness
flying by, covetous of cotton ball sky.
I am just a pencil-stroke
of a cat, an abbreviation
sliding side-ways through
your barn door.
(hesitation marks on the snow,
is it suicide to go in?)
I hear your voice
through the kitchen window.
I call to you
with my throaty voice
I let you see me, but
I erase myself
when you come
Umbrella folds of squash leaves
moulder like an old man's coat hung too many
years on the cellar door hook.
Tomato vines snake out of their cages
as if to escape, green skeletons grip grass carpet
along an outer bank.
Cocooned against squirrels with chicken wire,
one anemic eggplant refused to grow.
The last bus that finishes the day, bluejays blast
in after yellow clouds of finches. You can
tell the season by the birds, spring orchestra
silenced, replaced by riotous cricket competitions
each lengthening night after sun sinks into the swamp.
Sunlight so bright white, my surprised eyes water
as I flip flop through the garage to walk the dogs.
Yes, red bounty simmers on the stove. Summer--boiled,
blanched and skinned. Shredded fine and mixed
in a large stock pot. Herbal fragrance fingers the air,
carries memories' burst basket, juice drooled beneath. Ice,
blizzard flow behind hurricanes' swirling skirts. Nobody but an unknown
poet thinks of this. Crowds cross the fairgrounds,
munch fried dough, sausage sandwiches, swill over-priced
beer, wine, gawk at swine, exotic chickens, horses, humiliated,
hooded birds of prey. Cigarette smoke, grandstand music, sweat
reach high above ferris wheel, the tilt-a-whirl,
nausea on a roller coaster as it dives upside down
into darkness, into midnight. Winter waits. This glorious
burnished gold, purple,magenta day, a mouse creeping along
the baseboard only but for the grace of a white cat.
With beer and cat.
Sump pump trickles
below my feet.
Floors above us, air
something out of nothing.
Frost etches glass.
frantic to escape
Into the blue, the black,
folded night sky.
One obsidian feline eye
half shut, white pupil a curled slit,
patient Winter anticipates
Crazy quilt clouds.
Ears pinned back, ruff
flat, Winter flies
An uprooted stump
at woods' edge
flares tail feathers
like a turkey gobbler.
I expect his lust-filled laughter
as the chickens run to me
from a dust bath
their wide heavy strides vibrate
the earth. Half-tame
dinosaurs expect my pocket full
of treats. When I cackle
back at them one rooster tilts his head,
full of implication
You have a lousy accent.
Maybe it was Mary Oliver's poem about
saying of names or maybe it was the emailed
request for his mother's maiden name
as if there were a secret question with
a password to unlock death's silence. Maybe.
You think about the day they took you
from him, how he died, just like that,
the following Tuesday and you became insane
for awhile. Grief does that. Insanity, mortal
wounds that may heal but you're never quite
the same as before it all happened.
You are home alone. Each day dawns
wan light, the color of weak tea.
Each day you recite facts: you did not
sleep again last night. The milk in its crusted
carton soured. You forgot to eat,
forgot your pills and oh, yes, he is still gone.
You follow your blunt, calloused toes
because you don't know what to do, where
to go for time to pass back to just-before.
One afternoon, your feet lead you down cellar.
You discover a box of loose photographs. For
a moment, as your hand grasps at
cardboard lip, you wonder if it will just hurt too much.
Then you seat yourself on the second to last cellar stair,
your glass of red wine reverential and speechless beside you.
You peel back box flaps, your stubborn heart beaten
inside its fragile shell. You hold a picture of some holiday
close to your face. People you don't remember.
Toss aside. Reach for another. You planned
for years to organize these into albums, but you lived
your days sipping espresso, attending the opera,
visiting your husband's relatives, or sailing on the sea cat.
Your fingers tease his face from the kodachrome mess.
You've never seen this picture, so your heart, in its fragile
shell shivers. You lay the treasure next to your glass.
You lift glass, toast basement wall,
meager triumph in endless war.
Before long, following your toes brings
you to this stair daily as evening's lavender dress plumps,
fluffs itself like an enormous hen to roost
over winter land. You start to look forward to,
to make an appointment with, so to speak,
to discover more photographs.
Your delicate heart in its shelled cage of longing, shivers.
It is all well and good this sunset voyage
to your illicit hoard. But as the pile diminishes,
your anxiety blooms dark.
The day is not far off when the box will
lie on its side, as empty as you and your clattering
heart and then there will be no more chances
to say his name out loud.
Last night we spoke
of mangoes, pomegranates,
juice-drip, the many seeds.
Curled against my basket
your hot fruits nestle.
Your ribs’ shelf rests
my right hand,
its silver cherry.
I wake, your fingers
fluttering across my breast like
a flock of golden-eyed sparrows,
hungry for those tiny purple berries
I forget the name of them.
Through the years he fidgets, left back hoof cocked, watches, leans against split-rail fence all day, bowed section by the driveway beneath that crooked sugar maple. His eyes fix on silent screen door.
He remembers evenings, sunlight shafted between shore and leaf, summer's drowse, distinctive "slap", door-on-frame, sounds like rump-smacked reins.
Her soft naked feet, brown soles, tipped toes through dust, her hair glints gold, bronzed skin, a supper treat she carried for him and the others from supper kitchen. "Yo, horses!' her clear voice. Echoes drift down the valley. Her scent.
Leftover stir-fry, sesame, peanut, bean sprouts, cellophane noodles. Lavish horse-lips flutter. Her fingers' tangle his mane, his sueded ears, how her nails scratched down deep, where itches sleep, his lids half mast.
Patient, faithful, loyal. Rain's cold music weights grasses before they have a chance to raise their heads. A cataract through rusted drain pipe, the downspout, gushes over the paint-scabbed door, the buckled sprung porch floor.
So much moisture. Wood swells, rots. A barn collapsed this shy spring that follows winter's reluctant exodus. Cold May. Joints creak, worn teeth ache.
Moons rise and fall. Clouds offer little sunlight. Stars flame out unseen like undreamt dreams. Tears trace a path, blacken the white hairs of his cheeks. Flies sting him. He blinks. She knew his name.
The ice-toads crept out today.
They live under blue curls of snowdriftt
sing a creaking groaning song.
Their skin glass-
white and lavender,
cold crystal new-sky eyes.
Twenty below out and
the voice of the forest opens.
Those strange creatures
clatter and clack
and breed between the ice-stars
that tiptoe over the pond
like some giant stilted bird.