Jan/Feb 2004 Poetry

Two Poems

by christopher watkins


antique row

it was the season then, for summer storms
and i'd never seen so many babies born
squirrels died by the thousands then
and the summer birds prayed for them
without a thing better to sing about

the air was full of siren sounds
as speakers slowly turned around
and the tortoise beat the hare again
then flat-out lost to the wind
and all went quiet while the bells were ringing out

and i found a picture of charley patton
taken ninety years ago
in a junk shop on antique row

december birthdays kept still
while needles crept up hay hills
and the trees that were planted right
opened up their jaws for kites
and laughed at what it's like to be children

and the squeaky wheels went greaseless
while the warm rains were ceaseless
and the birthday clowns went faceless
while the indian corn was tasteless
and we all had the same dream one evening

and i found a picture of john fante
taken sixty years ago
in a junk shop on antique row

red and white tablecloths
candlelight and sphinx moths
brittle banjo serenades
whiskeys and lemonades
and a three-cone speaker battery radio

and the roads we walked were made for bends
and the mountain rivers couldn't end
they always sang lead melody
while the summer rains added harmony
and gods left their heavens to come play below

and i found a picture of francis bacon
taken thirty years ago
in a junk shop on antique row

it would have been the season then
for dust storms, if the dust had been
where dust storms are supposed to be
but the dust had been declared free
and just like that it went and headed north

and the plains were wide as plains have been
and the flats were flat and the coasts were thin
and the summers hot, and the winters cold
and i was either young, or very old
and from one age to the other i set my course

and i found a picture of myself
taken five years ago
in a junk shop on antique row


county clare to custer county

the horses have their winter coats on
and the dogs are filling out as the season turns
there's cat food in the bowl
and there's wood enough to last
and all we've got to do is watch and learn

there's a small herd of deer above the gulley
under sheets of cloud stretched across the sky
the sage pokes through the snow
like whiskers through my face
and the mountains leave their shadows where they lie

there was a soup and bread dinner
with carols in the barn
and they said "come on down, but come warmly dressed"
and though we never made it down
being bound to our fire
we still dreamt of christmas angels nonetheless

someday we'll have land of our own
and we'll bury each other there when we're gone
and until our ship arrives
we will raise a thousand toasts
to the water, and the plains, and the dawn

we've come straight from the shores of sweet galway bay
to kneel before your mountains come the dusk
to walk your yellow fields
to sleep beneath your stars
oh, we've come to let your land play at being lord of us


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