The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Roger Pfingston
Stalled in city traffic, ebbing sun
throbbing like lava, I find myself
thinking again of that word
someone used the other night,
floaters, new to me even though
I've lived in limestone country all my life.
Not the flesh and blood kind--
one upside down in a river,
another down and out,
sleeping under cardboard
in whatever town. No,
this is stone floating up
from the dense sea of itself,
boulders I imagine ripped
from the mother lode, quake-
buckled free of their mass.
This is stone ascending
millennial speed to the rooted
surface where man digs
for a living: house and home,
the quick strata of office buildings.
Once struck, this is stone
that has to be 'dozed
or craned aside like some petrified beast
whose pulse--a deep drumming--
would've been slower than
this traffic pacing its way
past corporate power,
manicured acres wrapped around
glass and steel, floating now
in darkness, that ancient host.
On a day of sun-sparked flurries,
horses paw the snow away
to get at fescue, the only grass
that stands up for winter feeding.
"They don't like it that much,
Tom says, "but with a 10-acre meadow
that stallion and the brood mares
are so fat they jiggle when they walk."
At one end of the pasture
there's a small cliff that drops
to a quarry where his wife died
while hunting mushrooms last spring,
although there's still some question,
given that she and Tom often argued,
leaving the air above and the stones
below charged with doubt.
His close companion these days
is a Malamute who rarely runs
or barks, leashed by firm command,
Tom being a thoughtful neighbor.
When he showed up in the backyard
this spring, I didn't think much of it:
Mimus polyglotto, just another
mockingbird, one of many songsters
trilling in and out of trees and bushes
or, as his kind are wont to do,
flashing bullish at the feeder
like the cacophonic jays or that star
drummer the pileated woodpecker,
truly a living cartoon and fond of suet.
But it was the mateless male,
the bird book says, who nearly did us in,
my wife and me, voicing his need
atop the neighbors' clothesline pole
or on the lilac's springy perch
outside our bedroom window,
a welcome lilt had it been
a decent hour but not at midnight
or 2 or even 4 or 5 a.m.!
A seemingly endless repertoire
of pilfered measures that might
include a squeaky gate or a dog's
repeated bark, and I think
we heard them all from this vain-
glorious wonder, ten inches bill to tail,
not some wannabe but a cock-
sure crooner who, when he finally
stopped (mated perhaps or gone
elsewhere with his ardent search),
left a silence equally disturbing . . . .
(For my mother)
After a record rainfall,
allusions to the ark
and the pairing of life
--who or what would you save?--
the sun appears like a trick
and like a trick disappears.
But you, Esther, Biblical
in name and spirit,
sustain us still, no tricks
in your house that shines
like salvation itself: four sons,
wives and grandchildren,
all in our Sunday best,
wiping our shoes and knocking
like a loud blooming at your door.
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