Things in Light Poetry Series 2014: Ardith Brown8:15 PM
She treats coffee filters
like new inventions; her percolating
days are over now, and she's never
seen a dolphin, aching in gray
Outside her window
is the chicken-free yard
where she counts sheds,
brass padlocks. In this land-
locked state it's hard;
blue herons, turtles,
all of them earth
and none of them sea.
Two thousand miles away
her husband longs for land
and sips chardonnay,
holds grapes and apricots
in his hands.
The boat sways.
She craves the luster
of waves, not deciduous trees,
not peace to attend her beads
and record the drops
Eating sardines she tastes sand
monsters stalking the beach,
but finds only dirt, locust wings,
her own dry lips. The salt
disintegrates in her mouth
like silky dusk
and the lowing of cows.
Chellie arrived before dawn,
lightly tapping on the glass.
Her boyfriend dead one year,
his last drug deal gone wrong,
a wire fence breaking his neck
as he ran through that idyll
When she giggled bright
bursts of noise woke the morning
birds. Mascara tears pooled
beneath her eyes, now smudged,
the artifice of her mask, removed.
Later, we fired up the Country Squire
wagon, all avocado green and fake wood
panels launching us toward the river's mighty,
brown weight. We headed south, down
to the floodplain where purple wild
flowers stained the fallow fields,
and the dark earth underneath
still smelled of winter and frost.
She took me to church
where services were starting,
ancient and young parishioners
climbing up the Baptist steps.
Beside the sanctuary, the cemetery
sprouted brittle plastic bouquets.
She yanked the dead red tulips
from the vase on his grave,
replacing them with yellow roses.
His favorite color, she said.
I love to surprise him.
For My Father With His Head In the Stars
Georgia doves court in the yard
where the stink of pear trees stop.
Anxious birds scatter pearlized feathers
of iridescent grey in waxy leaves.
Dogwoods glow as April stands cruelly on.
Back in Missouri my father balances on one foot,
brushing his teeth. He watches the aging corgi
pee again on the floor. “Throw her out,”
his wife says, while in the bathroom mirror
he envisions sundials, azimuths, and stars.
In his mind, Latin American altars wait
for him to map their penitent saints.
Stations in suffering dazzle, gilded gold
dissected in one radiant solar shaft.
Amber-pulsing lasers crack the cathedral.
At least I like to think of it that way.
The archaeologist and his calculations,
cigar smoke coalescing with frankincense
and myrrh in one miraculous connection,
where sun arrows shoot holy rays in tandem.
Or not. Perhaps the solstice is too hard
on his agnosticism. While incense burns
believers' eyes, doubtful priests carry on
their search for mysterious candles.
And I cannot interpret the point of light
like he can. But I remember the New World.
Chocolate rain and murderous chile await
Conquistadores who beguile Moctezuma.
Spanish forces ride in on hot horses
from ships where steel swords announce
the red beard of Cortez. I think of natives
sweating in the glittered valley. Their bodies
hew churches and convents; their mind's blue
eye replaced by biblical law, a bloody crucifix,
the coming of dark and splitting of rocks.
In Georgia, I wait for my father to speak
of astral matters and spring zodiacs in the night.
The phone clicks. When will I stare into his ocean
gaze and wonder if I’ll I ever get the math,
the raw wonder, the angles of his face?