Four Poems (August 20, 2010. Issue 20.)
My Father and I Discuss Animals
We were sitting in the TV room, watching
a documentary about North American Bison.
An old bison fought with a young bison
and gained a lot of ground on him, but
the young bison won, the old bison
walked away slowly, and the narrator
said that victor had earned the right
to mate with the females of the herd,
and the herd rushed out of the valley
and the old bison fell on all knees in the pale grass,
his body a contour map of a vast and vacant island.
After a few days alone in the valley,
the old bison tried to cross a river
and lay down and died a few feet into the riverbed.
Most of his face was sticking up from the water
and his huge black eyes were still open.
I made a hurt noise and said that that was the saddest thing.
You said, "Well, I'm not sure if they have emotions,"
and I said, "Well, I'm sure he wasn't sitting there
listening to sad music on his iPod and writing awful poems on his blog,
but I believe that all in all he had a negative experience,"
and you chuckled and said, "Well, I'm not sure if bison have iPods."
My Father and I Discuss Vegetables
You were trying to shave a baby carrot onto a pastrami sandwich
because we were out of lettuce. You said to yourself, "This is why
we should have gotten adult carrots," then you looked up at me
with the funny face you make and said, "You know?"
The light from the window was falling
just below the rooster clock with the egg pendulum that sways
like the head of a slightly nauseous dog.
I asked if adult carrots lived in tiny houses
or brought the baby carrots to tiny daycares.
And you said they had tiny briefcases made out of leaves
that they carried to work, and then I asked
if there was a size between baby carrots and adult carrots,
a kind of carrot that doesn't know what to do with itself.
And you said, "I don't know. Maybe."
And you went back to trying to shave another baby carrot,
and I laughed, but the sound never made it over my throat.
Virginia Beach, 2004
The choir kids and bandos had a field trip together
down from Connecticut, all of us too hot for manners,
if that made a difference. Word at the continental breakfast was
Lindsey McKinney had just dumped Andy Drake.
The jazz band got adjudicated early that afternoon
in a flat auditorium with shy but well-meaning air conditioning.
A few of the Bass 1’s came up from the hotel to watch.
We never ended up talking about Andy’s saxophone solo,
just made small vaguely hurt sounds inside of our throats.
We all saw Lindsey sitting right behind with the other trumpets.
We all watched Andy stand up, crutched by his horn, posing
for a picture she wasn’t about to take. We all heard the horn
clutch at the heavy air and then dissolve in it like a hard pill.
We all could fathom the weight of that horn as he sat back down.
Lower Allston Revisited
I counted fifty-three beer cans on the clearing, which meant
that one of the revelers had taken a can of beer for the road.
It had always been a town for drinking outside in droves
and then finishing the last drink in the safety of some home.
The dogs took their fleas for walks. The cats carried empty
mousetraps around in their teeth. Neighbors would pair off
for their Sunday strolls to practice refusing one another
eye contact. “Keep Allston Strange,” as one permutation
of the motto goes. Every Sunday there was a pub show.
Every night was a pub show. Every day was a pub night.
The streetlamps all had permanent hangovers. The Russian
grocery on Harvard hanged itself in the middle of the road
and nobody said a word. The comic book shop next door
cried blood for a day or two, but customers agreed the plot
felt contrived. They held clandestine potlucks to discuss what
should happen instead, but they declared the events non-canon
in the end. The stew that Jenna made wasn’t really even vegan.
The people who lived at the edge of our block grew a patch
of clove cigarette butts in their front yard. The old man across
the street got arrested for feeding the pigeons—outrageously,
as he had been very careful always to feed the same pigeon,
one fact we all could corroborate because one very fat pigeon
could always be spotted waddling by his stretch of sidewalk.
One supposes Old Tubby is now expected to waste away alone.
Who could ever imagine that little blob taking flight?