Author's Note: I have tried to avoid writing “pandemic poems” or political rants these last months in an effort to see beyond our present cultural angst. I didn’t completely escape some social comment, however, in “The Bayeux Tapestry.” “Driving Early, February, through Humbler’s Station” and “Stay of Life” are more positive. I’m pleased to say my second poetry collection, Conjugation of Perhaps, is available from mainstreetragbookstore.com.
Driving Early, February, through Humbler’s Station
Trees are pressed against flat sky like specimens in a botany book; weathers gray barns in time, in art’s picturesque suspension. I pass drought-brown skeletons of tractors, rakes, bailers, half buried in prickered weeds. In dawn’s cold clarity, I count highway hawks, brake for the bridge over Crossman’s Creek, chatter railroad tracks that have lost their shine. Black dogs, like discarded tires, hold down red-clay yards. Bus-stop children, serious and silly, surely have heart-aches of their own. Waiting for the one traffic light in town, I am losing my argument with Time. I pass the coin laundry, convenience store, The Chicken Coop with rusting rooster out front. The courthouse jury is sequestered at the motel on Route 151. Her house has small town gumption; white lights strung like a zodiac around porch eaves, yard signs of still defeated candidates are defiant in patriotic plastic. The door opens, itself a platitude of expectation; she welcomes me with a casual kiss like a passcode approved. She has risen in sweetness of motion like the dawn I have driven through, a joy that heroes me home. We harvest the twists of fate in our kingdom of habit, true to promises children will someday understand.
The Bayeux Tapestry
Is it lack of imagination that makes us come to imagined places? Elizabeth Bishop “Questions of Travel” Our one fear is getting lost. My wife has the map unfolded on her lap as she would a picnic napkin as we ease our rental car toward the lazy Seine, winning the roulette of traffic circles. We confidence ourselves through graffiti-ed outskirts and into the green pastures, woodlands west of Rouen. What conquering curiosity brings us to this travel; did we not traipse our hometown thoroughly enough? In dim light, the banner of linen and wool is laid out before us like a scroll of scripture— any ruler’s creed of arrogance and revenge. We are enamored by the exquisite improbabilities of depiction, observe in the margins the fanciful among real carnage, the blood of the ordinary man that war always demands. Is that Adam and Eve among the dragons? Can we ever trust another man’s history? We think of the fatigue, the sore fingers of the embroiderers, their anxiety over a lost thimble, tangle of wool, their child’s unabating fever. That their work survives at all is a miracle, as we recall religious extremists smash stone statues in Mosul, blow up Buddhas in Bamiyan, burn books in Timbuktu.
Stay of Life
Like a snow-globe, dust swirls around the barn; slow paling machinery parked as a centerpiece of labor’s life: the Adams Leaning Wheel Grader, with grubby brass plaque instructions is a humble legacy of invention; no Massey-Ferguson to pull it. Under the trust of roof teenagers discover the heft of bodies, the lightness of sex. A pigeon chorus beams down as alfalfa and fescue smell of harvest grace, black snakes police the rats and their associates. The paddock births burdock and thistle; and nostalgia gray washes the red to drain its urgency. Drab phoebes tend their young in mud and moss, fly the un-paned window to weedy fields. The bordering brook ambles to the sea.
©2020 Frederick Wilbur
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