It’s a kind of ambush,
that rush of meadowlarks
clustered among forsythia,
blooms awash with feverish bees
droning, droning, droning.
A kind of ambush, this flush
of yellow his dog sets off
as though light were wing and petal
and nothing was born to die
two notions as fitful as joy
or hope, words owning an O
wide enough to slip his soul in,
house key in the lock of faith.
April, and White River’s as turbid
as what his infant son hacked up.
Rose water, stump water, breath of cat,
nothing cleared the boy’s lungs.
Now baptism seems an everlasting
bargain. This morning I watch him
from a distance he can’t imagine,
and you watch too, maybe reading
in a chair whose springs creak
to let you in, the walls around you
as white as this 60 lb. stock.
Maybe you’re wondering what you’re
doing in this poem. Maybe you’re
bemused because this violates
our shared distance, though space
is only another name for time
and neither of us has much of that.
So stand here next to me. As near
as you can bear. Turn your ear
towards my lips, brave my stale breath,
and I’ll confess this man we’re watching
doesn’t see the yellow meadowlarks
among arcs of forsythia; doesn’t notice
the dog, black against purple sky.
These facts of my life I’ve lent
to his, 140 years after he signed
his son’s death certificate,
which I’ll unfold and read to you:
“Consumption.” All I know of both
of them I carry shoe-boxed, mailed
to me as last of kin by neighbors
of a great-aunt I hardly knew,
the German stamps peeled off
as payment for their trouble.
Here hold these-his few letters,
a note absolving chicken thievery,
the calfskin deed scavenged from trash.
All of it musty, liver-spotted,
brittle as egg shell in your pink
and open palms. You must be thinking
what dross a life, once spent, is.
What wild, rampant pleasures
reduced to paper, to dust.
You must be thinking what pitiful
account each of us leaves,
as I will leave these wings
and petals that fulgurate
beneath a cluster of thunderheads,
my own pitiful account of this
febrile rush I feel, box in hand,
ambushed by the answering machine’s
yellow eye, eye, eye
as if, though gone,
I had not missed his call.