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.
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.
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.