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The Summer of My Discontent

Windows freshened interiors with still-cool

mornings as I would slip from the house that July

to the lake amid the whistles of cedar waxwings

and crows’ raucous caws; the woods leafy tent

clarified glare from the sun’s climb, though mosquitoes

hazed the air over the water. Scrannel chicory, flush pendant

goldenrod infiltrated the asphalt trail’s cracks.

A hollow tree root mesmerized me once

that bees flew into in pairs from either

side to silo their gleanings of nectar

at the same moment others floated out

on converse courses for more—like souls migrating

between the worlds in the Eastern creeds,

whose rest only readies for another round.

By Michal Jarmoluk, Public domain, via Pixabay

By Michal Jarmoluk, Public domain, via Pixabay

Occasionally I lengthened my jaunt to the library,

alternating borrows of the same John Updike novel

and one of Galway Kinnell’s collections.

Couldn’t the county afford a free key into

Wole Soyinka or Léopold Senghor?

On my way there or back, I might stop at Co-op

to eyeball the stationery. Spiral-wire notebooks

and perforated, narrow-ruled pads

when I craved Hemingway’s perfect-bound moleskins.

Plastic Bics, felt-tipped Flairs, even

chrome Crosses when I pined for a Waterman

whose rhodium nib traced bold

yet flourishing words for the page to drink in.

By Free-Photos, Public domain, via Pixabay

By Free-Photos, Public domain, via Pixabay

When the lawn overgrew I would fill afternoons

mowing. The starlings’ wordless conversing

provided a resonant lilt to step to,

and I admired Granny’s leftover four-o’clocks’

white ripening through the season to lavender.

Across the path, a young jean-sporting couple

bantered and laughed while tilling a furrowed square of land;

I too wanted to work with our earth as more

than its barber (my father and my aunt lived

with curtains closed, as if the house rested

on oblivion). I started small

with basil and thyme I potted indoors,

hoping for infant seedlings to breach

the soil’s brim, hoed up a strip of back yard

to replant them when grown, heaped shorn grass and orange rinds

on a lattice of sticks so the mound could breathe

from beneath. I produced nothing but compost.

But most days’ remnants hung heavy, slow:

then, I shut my home’s openings

to keep in my mechanical breeze.

Squirrels lay prone on branches, flattened

by heat. Beetles in the trees clicked

a constant changeless tune like castanets

played by the deaf, and mockingbirds would counterfeit

an owl’s drowsy hoot. The moisture of the surrounding swamp

would rise and saturate the air for days,

until the sodden sky grayed and the atmosphere

smelled of incipient lightning’s tang—

promising torrential release and the bright undersides of leaves

flashing when tossed by the storm. Still,

the weather sometimes so dragged out this turgid verge

I thought it had decided to stifle always,

that the break I waited for would never

arrive, or worse, that I had forgotten

the last it would grant had already passed.

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