Friday, January 26, 2007

the quiet man

he's sitting beneath my magnolia tree
feeding oreos to the neighbor boys
tossing goofy tales like talcum in the bath
they're dusting down on pouty lips
savoring consonants with misplaced vowels
beneath my magnolia tree

mother's baking crumb cakes
she says to lure him back
she says he's never been the same
but when she's wrapped in granny's shawl
no explanations will be forthcoming
when i was 17

i can't seem to untwist those years
father kissing strangers
in the back of sarah's bar
sitting in my bedroom window
itching from the thunder
cooked in the summery heat
making fever and going deaf
when i was 20

why do we bring our dead
into the parlor
folding up the lace
bringing out the silver
i've never cared for casseroles
too many brownies cloud my mind
too many cousins that i can't hear
and if i look away
i can leave their lips where they belong
when i was 21

i dreamed of tina turner
and a bridge over troubled waters
that i was dancing with julie connors
at a white cotillion ball
my sister signs into my palm
when the moon is clouded dark
my memory tries to whisper
can she understand its voice
when i was 25

sometimes i walk bare footed
down city walks
through randy alley ways
following scents that tell me stories
then tiptoe past white doors
with my fists inside my pockets
never tapping
feeling this old sleeping town
with my toes
when i was 28

my mother went across the lake
to sleep more quietly
they say
i'll miss the notes she'd leave
tossed or scattered
here and there
tidbits of maternal advice
cautions and instructions
drawn from a life full lived
bounded by her simple love
when i was 30

where do they go
all the echoes of the world
my ears have forgotten
the hardness of shouting
the sharpened edges of the world
i lie with my indecision
alone in the house
that my father built for children
when i was 33

my parents loved the tango
i would cut a rose
without misgiving
just to watch their swirls and dips
sitting on the kitchen counter
past my bedtime
ached with laugh
wondering if i'd ever grow
as tall, as dashing
they make their ghostey dance
when i was 36

they call me now
these maudlin spirits
they walk as though
every yester day is fresh
the only voices these ears can welcome
i set a table for all who've touched
this quiet man
this quiet house
we've made our bargains
and drunk our wine
when i was 39

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