—as in old blue stationery
Under the soffits, between loblolly woods
And the sole edge of ten-to-two sunlight, acid-
Flushed from rotten needles and sand: sea-floor,
To shoal, to beach. To then. And no other
Anywhere on my uncle’s small land—a lone
Bush, floating to overgrowth its corymbs, paper-thin
And color, as in my childhood letters to him, of ink
Leeched to ash and wine. My uncle didn’t drink
Anymore—as though to beat Death to the punch-
Line (‘Twas the crathur that took him!) of an Irish
Joke. Summer, I helped get his new house unpacked.
Fall, he died with the front door unlocked.
In repacking—his silver Wenzel percolator, his gloves
And overcoats—I didn’t think of my letters. Or of
The hydrangea bush, its heart-green leaves, eye-blue
Flowerheads offering themselves for nothing. Now, I do.
(Intermezzo for Charlie)
It’s all in the left hand, says your mistress. Brahms
Is all in the left hand. Why does she bother
With the piano at all, Charlie, you stretching from flews
To dewclaws on the sleepy carpet, and your leash hanging
So unoccupied behind the door? Hot August afternoons and scent
Of the salt sea—those are the days that should
Be yours, dog: your pushed-in muzzle was bred for
No good reason except to gnaw your rump and stub
Of tail, to snap at the frenzied buzz of rainbow
Scarabs. Shaking the phlegm from your eyes, you’re the guardian
Of Belmont Heights, of the quiet limit of the world.
Hey, Boo! Hey, Booger! Hey, Monkey-face, Pig-face! calls
Your master, who makes skinned tennis balls drop miraculously from
The absolute blue of heaven. Why shouldn’t the whole world
Be Monterey jack in your dish, chew toys and scairdy-
Cats, Thai-beef morsels, watchbands, and ice-cubes that you
Take so delicately in your underbiting jaws? You live in
A truer grace: Good boy! Yeah! What a good boy!
There are little birds—I can’t say how many—in the tree.
One hundred eight. Forty-two. I can’t say—many, I guess.
I guess from the black skullcaps that they’re chickadees—
And from their noise—chittering, chirping. All those
Throats. And always unstill. But the tree is a hawthorn:
This from its evil thorns, its little orange-red apples
The only brightness in the wet, brown
Yard. Among the thorns, the chickadees suddenly
Unsettle themselves. Then, suddenly, settle again.
And it’s towards sunset, dead-middle of January,
Light going out behind low clouds. So here are your things,
Here are your facts. But here is something, finally,
Between them, between thorns thick and moving
With little birds beaking the freezing, uneatable
Hawthorn apples. Here is something. Something
Between us. There must be a way to say it, a name to call
It, like the name chickadee, sunset. Hawthorn. One,
Like this, for intimacy, separation. For a yard shrill
And dark, in January. For you. For my breath, alone.
I don’t know. But here is the thing between
Us. And how I wish I could name it. Name it real. Name it gone.
—James Scannell McCormick, Rochester, MN