The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Dean Smith

In the hours before your passing,
a low-hung moon, strange and enormous,
illumined the Potomac.
One night removed from the solstice,
its white-gold reflection
flashed in the branches.
Stopping along the riverbank,
I watched it blaze across the water,
awaiting your soul.
Christina pushed harder in the thirtieth hour,
squeezing my hand as our daughter's blood-flecked
head emerged, and the doctor sliced once at the air for practice,
then lowered the scissors.  I looked away at CNN
showing photos of flag-draped coffins for the first time
snapped on loading docks, air strips, and cargo holds.
Julia spilled into the world, placenta attached,
writhing in the doctor's gloved hands.
In my first official act, I snipped her cord.
Faces from high school yearbooks flashed across the screen:
men and women from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Michigan;
blown from their vehicles, downed in hostile fire,
their shortened trajectories completed in Basra, Najaf, Tikrit;
places their proud parents would never have dreamed of,
while their babies lay swaddled beside them, newly born.

My mother's high school
sweetheart gave me
my first toy guns:
nickel plated Colt .45s,
mother of pearl handles,
leather holster.
Before joining the marines,
Mickey proposed to her.
My mother flashed his ring.
"I almost was your father,"
he tells me each time I see him.
He's still in love with her.
My father vowed to watch over
his best friend's fiancee,
then moved in for the kill.
Dad pulled his trigger first.
Mom gave back the ring.
I was born.
Tulips on a banquet table
blood orange, succulent,
remind me of you.
Their lustrous cups
as though rimmed with sugar
open from silver vases.
I ask a waitress, "Can I take
some back to my room?"
On the road, I want you close to me.
"Not now," she says.
"Check back in the morning."
I consider stealing a clutch,
like I did a first kiss
after a botched attempt
to show you the city
from my roof.
Your lips never opened.
By morning, the flowers had gone.
Stuffed in his sock drawer
and loaded with hollow points
I thirst for an assignment.
So long since he's touched me,
I can't remember how it feels
to fire round after round
at the target.  Most of my peers
scored leather holsters
around the waistlines
of police officers, hit men.
He whispers about me in secret,
trots me out to a girlfriend
on the side.  I make him feel good
about himself.
His children don't want me,
hold my nozzle with two fingers
like a piece of soiled laundry,
believe I'm here to bolster
their father's sexual potency.  
He will shoot someone
before it's over
and I will be blamed.
Herons captured on a fallen limb
against a backlit grotto of sand,
the blanched light like Monet's
Cathedral at Rouen.  I linger there
clicking off shots, locked into their hunger
like a tabloid photographer.
Next, a texture shot of oysters shells
dropped through a packing house floor
for one hundred years until they rose
out of the water into Avalon Island.
I point my "gun," twist the zoom lens into a shrieking
osprey's mouth as I move closer to her children.
And here on the dock, in peach baskets,
freshly netted jumbos, their sea-green back-fins
half-cloaked in shadow.
Out in my kayak at dusk, I wait for perfect light
to shoot the head of a rockfish as it glints
below the surface, dumbfounded, bodiless.
A bald eagle flashes in the white oaks.
I knock my camera over the gunwale.  
The water swallows it whole.

Copyright 2006-7 by Cook Communication