Today my whole body
climbed up into my head
and got stuck there
again. All afternoon
I heard it mewling
calling down the stairs
for me to let it out.
It happens all the time
even though I tell it
there’s nothing up there
you want, and you know
that latch is broken.
But it doesn’t hear this,
listening past me for
the soft footfall of
as it does, for dust,
clutter, and the dark.
- An earlier version of this poem appeared
in Peregrine, the literary journal of
Amherst Writers & Artists
-- Shae Irving
LAKE STREAM RIVER SEA
Miss Addie feeds her chickens, picks tomatoes, shells
green peas. Uncle Jack and Mrs. Mabry rock
on the porch, in their mind's eye the solitary road
restored to prairie; gaillardia's brilliant red and yellow spokes,
a crush of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush recalled
to their front steps.
Noontime, the Texas & Pacific workers open Dr. Peppers
in the locomotive's shade, the Swift and Armour
slaughterhouse gives up its odors to the heat.
Lillie Belle Patterson carries us crosstown in her '49 blue Ford
past the turtle-clad rocks in the lake, the old down-and-outers
at Smith's Barbershop, to the Colonial Cafeteria's lavish plates
of fried chicken with two sides, the sweet corn
pudding, the green beans rich with fatback; a slab
of sweet potato pie, almost as good, my husband judges,
as Mama's cooking was.
"Three ninety-nine each," says the hostess,
"and y'all come back soon, hear?"
The blaze of mid-afternoon fires up the corals and yellows
of Belle's front-yard roses. Shades pulled down, we rest
in her darkened living room. My husband speaks of those
who've passed, ghosts reposing in the sag of old wing chairs.
Lightning flicks against the window. "Quick, hang up the phone!"
Belle orders as thunder rolls across the extinct prairie.
Late afternoon, calf-deep in the shadowed creek
by the golf course where my husband, at fourteen, caddied
for rich whites; near the park, the library, the classroom
he couldn't enter; I pretend I'm wading in his childhood
streams, his river, hunting shells like those he used to find,
the clams and giant snails, deposits from an unknown sea.
-- Yvonne Cannon