Jan/Feb 2015 Spotlight

Three Poems

by Marc Frazier

Image courtesty of the British Library's Photostream

Little Gods

Where we left off: the woods behind the creek,
looking to be lost, to be found.
If we were listened to, it was chance.
Meaning waited in the future.

A place it would take years to find.
And who would help us?
If we knew right from wrong, it meant we could sin.
That was growth of a sort: a destination.

Nature could no longer save us from ourselves:
not our own, not the wild we explored in all weathers.
Other thoughts sullied us.
We were not to be found the same person again.

The darker side: the real story of the Pied Piper,
a twister throwing a school bus at the courthouse,
young Maria taken from Elm Street,
her body found in Galena's undergrowth.

Classroom whispers: the fetus found by Rowl Road pond,
open caskets of powdered aunts,
the dark confessional with its one red eye,
the crush of debt on our parents' heads.

And these other children being tested:
Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood?
A caution not to trust a dress over fur, a mother's repressed rage.
What the grown-ups didn't admit:

how clever these children were, their triumphs.
Mostly these tales were metaphor: losing your way, finding your way.
Stories to correct us, boy who cried wolf
as a warning: enough is enough.

The truth: I remember little,
the bulk of memory scattered like starlings
in all directions: black shards in a clear sky.
We didn't think of a past as a unified thing.

It was moment to moment.
We could reward and punish,
blinded just enough not to be spooked.
Beautiful horses, little gods.



As if they are illicit, Sister hands out our weekly magazines.
The move West: page after page of blondeness, flashes of light
and color.
Boys balance over waves, girls flirt behind dark glasses.
Fearful of such abandon, she hurries us to the catechism.

One summer cousins from San Diego arrive.
I inhale the scent of Jimmy's hair swirled like soft serve,
comb snug in his back pocket.
He watches me from the gravel pit's edge.
Somewhere: an ocean I've never seen.
I want him to rescue me from still water.

At last I stand beside surf shops calmed by chill,
ponder the path to sunken treasure.
Sleek cars snake along coast—dabs of color in mist.
Syllables of Spanish are coins from a city of gold.
Seagulls circle lady painters over La Jolla Cove—sirens who draw my dreams
onto guano-splashed rocks.


November, 2013

The doe approaches slowly,
driven by this season's early freeze,

nibbles at frozen kale, seedpods,
jerks her head up at any hint of sound,

dangerously close to the house.
We marvel at her vigilance,

the weight of staying alert,
every moment vulnerable.

"How like us," I want to say but don't
because we seldom say what matters.

What to do with this empty seat
where you should be this time of year?

Near the end you asked me, "Am I dying?"
The nurse upped the morphine

and your rattle calmed.
I was already writing your obit,

awash in the distance of third person
to speak of the first person in my life.

The deer disappears into the woods.
A late autumn sun sets on white Wisconsin hills.

All the way home I recall these lines:
the language of loss does not travel back,

is endless, and speaks too tenderly
from no one to no one.


Italicized lines from David Rigsbee's poem, "When We All Split Up"


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