Apr/May 2007 Poetry

Two Poems

by Jared Carter

Artwork by KOB ONE

Olivewood Bowl

Take down the olivewood bowl, it is warped, it is dry, grandfather
brought it in a suitcase, from the old country, on that long crossing.

Take down the bowl made of olive wood, it should be dusted now,
no one ever holds it or touches it, no one traces its marvelous whorls.

Take down the bowl fashioned from a portion of the olive tree,
brought here so long ago, carefully wrapped in a kerchief of silk.

Pour out the virgin oil on its surfaces now, take up a soft cloth,
succor its thirst in this way, let it smoothly accept and absorb.

Take down the bowl, that is cracked, that has lasted, hold it
and see how the grain is unchanged, amid numerous blemishes.

Take down the olivewood bowl, with the touch of your hands
encounter what is lost, what is found, what is here, what is always.

Silver the leaves of the olive tree, shrill the mid-summer cicada,
all is remembered, forgotten, and all is remembered once more.


Many Days Have You Lingered

When my mother was close
to death, she told me of a friend
she had known in grade school,
right after the First World War.
The girl's parents were blind.
They lived in a shuttered house
on the far side of the tracks
in an abandoned part of town.
There were no other houses near.

When my mother described it,
I could remember riding by
on my bike, and knowing that
no one lived there anymore.
The girl's parents survived
by making music on holidays
and at street fairs. Saturdays
they sat on two orange crates
in front of the five-and-dime.

The women strummed a guitar,
the man bowed an ancient fiddle.
They sang a two-part harmony.
They knew forgotten songs
that would have been familiar
to your grandparents: Hard Times,
The Gray Goose, After the Ball,
Take Back Your Gold, The Wreck
of the Old Ninety-Seven.

They would set a cigar box
on the pavement, where people
from the town, passing by,
might toss in a nickel or a dime.
The little girl, who could see,
and who had led them there,
held out a felt hat, and would
curtsy, and smile, when
someone dropped in a coin.

I understood as my mother
continued to speak. It was all
coming back, what I had heard
when I was young, about how
the mill shut down, the banks
closed, and the local undertaker
set up a soup kitchen. The girl
was much older, and there were
fewer nickels, no more dimes.

I knew the story of the mother
and the father tapping their way,
one night, out to the middle
of the tracks, and sitting down.
The girl had gone into town
to find them something to eat.
I knew that story. My mother
knew it too, and yet it did not
matter now. Something else did.

She rose up from the bed.
It was the music, she said.
It was so beautiful to hear,
when I stood there, holding
my mother's hand, waiting
to drop my penny in the hat
held out by my friend. It was
the way they sang together,
all those lovely harmonies.

For a moment it seemed
we had been reassembled
on that corner, and lifted up
by the music. She left town,
my mother said, at about
the same time you were born.
I never heard from her again.
Such a pretty name: Merle.
Even now I think of her.


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