|Jan/Feb 2010 Poetry Special Feature|
Song of the Saltbox
Down the twisted hills we fell,
our barge of a car sinking low. The cracked dash
and seat cushion with its guts spilling out.
Amusement of youth, the road blocks of rock fall,
sandstone and shale gullied free by the rain, the scattered
remains of possum and deer, cock-eyed mailboxes unhinged
from posts, and riddled signs that rattled in the wind.
The strap-rot of lawn chairs in weeks-old yard sales,
estate sales back in hollows, the bustle of blood drives,
the bark and cry of auctioneers.
In Boonville we'd yank the cranky cart,
Saturday of the seized-up wheel.
My grandmother's hair cocooned in a scarf.
We'd wobble the aisles of X-Mart, past
turnips and yams, past acorn squash and scallions,
coconuts with their black eyes gone dim.
This is the song of the salt box and cistern,
the starling in the downspout, the slinking tom.
Lullaby of the warm, yellow kitchen.
The narrow stair that ascended to attic,
the peen-knocked shelves that housed
our mouse lousy Hamlet, our Emerson and Thoreau.
October's leaf rot musts the air
and my dreams fill with wood smoke, with the thud and roll
of bulbous osage that dot the road.
My past grows long as the late autumn light.
My future grows small as that house.
The pocked white stove still sings to the brown eggs
as Grandmother shines persimmons on her dress.
My middle years rolled free of these hills,
but the past burns pure as this blue, blue flame.
At a Yard Sale off State Road 27, Chickalah, Arkansas
Yard sale yarn, a quarter per skein
and books that bleed when exposed
to rain, and old records in crates
that only make the daddy long legs dance.
A large woman squats on a couch cushion
she's dragged to her front porch. She sips coffee
from a flamingo mug and makes change
from a cigar box wedged between her legs.
Things on the lawn that for years have only seen
the swinging light of attic bulbs. The siding is green
with envy. Thin scrawl of red-inked prices
on masking tape pressed to denim dresses
with buckles missing, stacks of plastic cups,
junk jewelry in a ballerina box. She no longer twirls.
If it barely sparkles but holds together, it's for sale.
The bushes smell of cat pee and rot-damp leaves.
A young boy cries because he's pulled away
from an armadillo stuffed like a chair. My mother wipes clean
silver picture frames and I brush the cocoons
from the centerfolds of comics.
The homeowner lights another slender cigarette.
The silver trails of slugs and snails wander cursive on the walk.
A young girl dreams near a wedding dress sheathed in plastic,
a basket of scuffed patent-leather shoes. She barely breathes.
I'll take fifty for the lot of them. The young girl touches sequins,
a bit of lace, a stiletto heel. Smoke snakes between
the woman's fingertips. A baby cries deep inside
the house. Fifty for the lot, she calls, rises then and disappears.