your image crafts a neat visage
of corporate health, dressed as you are
in a starched chemise and light grey suit.
And as your
fingertips school the errant tie
that binds your neck, a time piece shows
the face of eleven o clock.
Whilst bursts of
fitful laughter breach the quiet,
you are unmoved, your gaze upon
the shifting of the blue green glare.
and the playful teasing of its words,
only lives to steal a purpose
from the possession of the day.
so wasteful of the gifts that youth
bestows, long since contoured your lips
into the likeness of a frown.
As a sliver
of sunlight, spilt from the cup of summer’s
day, taunts it’s cambered form
into a momentary smile.
But too soon
it disappears as you straighten
in your chair, and your eyes seek refuge
in a patch of slanted shade.
And you curse
beneath the stealth of your breath,
at the folly of aspiration
and its fallacious dawn.
When they clashed he’d retreat to his shelter
Part roofed by the last wars garden bunker.
To feel the faith in metal, short yet sleek
Right hand twists, shelf stands still.
Some problems seem simple, my buckled
Bike wheel. Oil black fingers finger rusty
Spokes, a forty year old spanner clenches
Stubborn bolts, pressure applied, wheel
Eased from frame. He is a surgeon of
All things practical, in the din of his cluttered
Haven life runs like a mountain stream
Filtered, free of tarred lungs, white rugs
A Temperamental bladder (one pipe he can’t
Fix alone) stiffening joints, greying hair.
A bulb flickers above, cloth in hand, two screws
To the Left, new bulb in, light and purpose returns.
His father was a soldier, he remembers him
With brass cleaner and a clean rag. The pain
In his knee chisels away with apprentices venom.
He sands a door frame, wipes sawdust from his
Brow. A true mans novocaine. Above, floorboards
Hum she cleans and scents the rooms
With autumn glade, considering chops or fish
Some problems seem simple- that night they fall
To sleep in silence, and wake to the nightmare of each other.
I have been coming to this river to fish for longer than I can remember. Years filter by, dripping into my mind. I recollect hazy memories of my grandfather and my father, all three of us wading into the water which seemed so much deeper than. Memories of my different rods, lines, lures, bait and reels. I remember the first fish I ever caught a stunning Rainbow Trout. I pulled the hook out from her lip and threw her back in, I still think of her. The heaviest fish I ever caught was 18lbs, a catfish, and my wife made several stews from him. The smallest fish, a baby really, was unhooked with my pair of pliers and tossed back in.
I bring my son now, occasionally my dog. We relax, waist deep into this river and let time run by. The river has not changed; the World and I have changed around it. It still smells the same, runs at the same impatient pace. The fish living inside, fat, comfortable, glistening under the water like flexible gems. The wind blows and the reeds lick the back of my son’s neck. I have watched him grow, at the same impatient pace of the river. He glances at me and I turn away. I adjust my hat, wade out a few feet further into my same, faithful spot and begin to cast off.
Nature and I, is unnatural. I wear no shoes and I skim the break, letting the surf, and the disused material from the water wash and wedge itself into my toes. The water is cold; summer will not be here for a few more months. The sand is asking me to suck myself into it. To disappear into these tiny, white shiny rocks. I move back, afraid to go any further. My feet are cold and dirty. Black diseases are clinging to my toes, and I do not have the strength in me to go back to the waters edge and wash them away. I look across the river; I can barely see the other side. Only a valley made from hills that ice once forced its way through. I think about the past a lot. I see no ducks, nor birds. I can hear the river, crashing and running with nowhere to go. I sit down, away from the water. I am unnatural in a way that the water can never know.
I close my eyes and let my memory overwhelm my arm. Automatically it seems, my muscles tighten and force me to cast off. I look for my line; follow it to where it has made a tiny blip in the water. I watch my bait, waiting for it to ensnare.
“That’s a good spot,” He says. My son is just behind me. When he was younger, he used to be scared of the fish, of what was hiding in the river. He never wades out too far, always waiting for me to go out first.
“You try and get further downstream”, I pull my reel in a little to tease the fish. We relax in the water together not really speaking. This is what I have always liked about fishing. You become a rock in the water. It breaks and curves around you. The fish, at first shroud themselves in the murky mist at the bottom of the water. They dart around. I fish to wait, and I wait for a fish.
The water is nearly roaring past me now. I put on my jacket, which is cold and heavy. It is a long suede jacket, with more pockets inside than outside. My mother gave it to me, although I cannot recall when. I used to remember her wearing it, and thinking how outdated it looked. Now I delve into it. It is always comforting, even when cold and has retained that old jacket smell. On hot days, when the sun penetrates the layers, it has a perfume of my mother, of lilacs and flour. The smell of my childhood, the smell of rescue and safety. This jacket is as close to me as a second skin, and I trust it unconditionally. I pull it tighter, inspecting the buttons; I have repaired all four of them, stitching them and re stitching them until no more thread could go through the tiny holes. The wind blows, lightly, moving my hair across my face. Instinctively, I reach up and tease it behind my ears. Wisps still snap at my face. The reeds are dancing to some unknown song, a song I could not possibly know. The sun will soon begin its daily demise. I look up, and I cannot help but cry.
Fishing is a silent movie. Everything is done very quietly, even the whirring sound of my reel and line seems to be gentle and almost in tune with nature. You wait for the moment when a fish baits, to reel him in towards you. He will tug on your line, thrashing and wailing, trying to break free. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Fishing is nature’s lottery. I pull my line back to me, and inspect the bait. I rearrange the feathers on it, a bright green and blue. Originally, like older fishermen, we used to use live bait and sometimes I still do. My wife cannot stand me keeping maggots in the fridge anymore, once they did escape from the box. So now I use fake bait, which works just as well, as you can play with the line to make it appear that this plastic is actually living and breathing, skimming on the water. I take my pliers out, a pair that is so old they are starting to rust, and move the head of my bait so it is nesting just right alongside the hook. My son calls this ‘Death by plastic”. He uses similar bait in different colours. The sun will begin to set soon, and we will catch the last of the bathing beauties.
I stand up, and slowly walk to the waters edge. I cry for so many reasons, but I stopped as suddenly as I started today. There does not seem to be any point in wasting the water inside of me anymore. I have always appreciated water, how it asks for nothing, how it does what it pleases. It can be moved, forced to rush somewhere else, forced to filter through a small hole, when really it wants to gush. In the winter, it can freeze and become still. There is always that danger, that underneath the ice, the water is still moving, slowly, with a reason, with a purpose. I have never seen water that is not moving somewhere. I pull my boots on, and put on another jacket. This one is even bigger, with lining that is nearly a hundred years old. I found it at my grandmother’s house after she died. It was my grandfathers and she wore it to his funeral. I cannot remember his death, only the memory of my mother crying, my grandmother crying. Everybody crying and I was asking “Why?” and nobody seemed to tell me. I still want to know why. I begin to walk to the water.
My son has had a problem with his line. It has got tangled up into some wet reeds. Sometimes this can be a major problem. The untangling of lines can take hours. Hours spent under a light trying to find a way out of the nearly translucent mess. I have never given up on a tangled line, but many times I have lost it in frustration. He is hacking at the reeds, getting angry. I hear him curse and I pretend I didn’t hear it. I turn around and look at him; he’s scaring all the fish.
“You’re scaring the fish John”
“Sorry dad, it’s the reeds”
I hear him sigh. He begins to slowly untangle the lines, less frustration this time. I look back to my line, pull the line a little tighter, and then release it again. The day will end soon, and we will have the drive home. He is driving this time. How time has changed.
I am at the waters edge. My feet are teasing the break. It is still cold, but it a way that I have become accustomed to it. I tighten the belt around my stomach. It is a strong leather belt that I bought two days ago. The rocks are clanging all around, all settling for a place to rest and to stay. They make a sound, almost like a mantra. I begin to walk into the water, feeling the weight pressing and pulling me down. The sun is bleeding into the sky. When the water reaches my shoulders, I vow to let the water carry me under, to wash me away. Nature and I, we are unnatural. I want to give in to the force of it, I want to become as still and as eroded as the rocks in my pockets. I want to wash away.
The silence was deafening. The dying came in the waves, and all day long, they did not feel a bite.
See This Life Here, It Stays
Some things that make me feel
bad, in turn make me feel
better; like this kitten, cliché:
stuck on a branch. Little
fellow. I get a ladder
scoop him up and find that he’s scared
of grass, rocks, and just about anything
that the breeze moves.
Where’d he come from
trembling so? And how’d
he get in a tree big as that?
Inside my home he becomes
comfortable, puts his face
close to mine, sniffs my lips
as I study his golden eyes
the lenses popping from his tiny head
pink paw pads pressed to my chest, purring.
Animals have a way, they
can give a person happiness if
only momentary. For I am
allergic to cats, and this poor one
afraid of dead leaves!
There is no choice but to have the humane
society pick him up. I know
he’ll find a home.
Sitting here now, vacant
of those golden eyes, I’m thankful
but this cat hair left behind
on my chest makes me want
the feeble bastard to come back
lay on my lap again, eyes
half mast as they relaxed.
I must be lonely. No
fuck that. I’m a man
and this book of Raymond Carver poems keeps me
company. Just a moment ago
I read his poem titled “My
Death,” and in it he states that
it was written April, 1984. That date
always makes me pause. 1984.
The year I was born. To think
of that! as he would say.
This man writing about death
two months before I was born! Insane
how it goes. Sad there won’t be any new
Carver poems. But look here! This
whole collection, a life’s work
in my lap, and similar to the cat
when I put it down pieces linger behind
like fur, safely clinging
to my chest.
Dianna Doles Petry
Reflections from a Porch Swing
Sometimes I can almost smell her in the air, especially when the honeysuckle vines are full. She loved the scent of honeysuckle and even managed to find it in a perfume that she dabbed behind her ears and on the inside of her wrists before she headed off to church. She was a country woman in every sense of the word and as much as she loved me, she never fully understood my need to do things like ride a motorcycle or travel to different states.
You may have guessed it already but I’m thinking of my grandmother again. I do that frequently and I always try to imagine what she would think of me these days. I can imagine her standing on the front porch in her floral house dress under a well worn apron given to her by one her many children or grandchildren. I never gave her aprons, to me that was not a personal gift, it was something to work with. I don’t think I understood at that time how much work and pleasure were intermingled in her life.
I loved to sit on her front porch swinging the evenings away in a an old wooden swing hanging from rusted chains. I reflected on the world, or at least the world I had known at that point and the world I imagined to exist beyond the Appalachians while I made good use of that swing. There was no time to sit on the porch during the day, there was always something that needed to be done. There were seeds to plant, weeds to pull, meals to prepare, floors and clothes to be scrubbed, garden produce to bring in or canning to be done. I never minded helping her, in fact, I wish I had paid much closer attention to the things she did with such ease. At the end of the day, however, I wanted to be out there in the swing whether there was anyone else to sit me or not.
“Dianna,” she would say, “You should be doing something instead of swinging your evening away.”
Her idea of doing something and my idea of doing something were very different. She spent her “down time” in the evenings with a needle and thimble mending clothes or making out a store list or reading her Bible. She never seemed to run out of light and her eyes never seemed to tire when she was reading her Bible as she rocked either on the front porch if the weather was nice or in the front room if it was cold.
My idea of doing something was to take a walk along the creek bed maybe stopping to go skinny dipping by moonlight, or catching fireflies with a group of cousins, playing basketball with the “holler kids” or just hanging out with a girl friend talking about boys, school, movie stars, and of course, clothes.
Now, after having children of my own, I realize that she was trying to lead me by example. She wanted me to be a good woman, lead a good life, and most of all, become a good nurturer to my children and my family. It worked and I never even realized that I was learning along the way. I think I lead by example myself, even if I don’t plan to do it that way.
I still remember how it felt to be there in that porch swing alone with my thoughts. I would close my eyes and really listen to my surroundings. The sounds of locusts, crickets and barn owls were comforting. I remember thinking about the people I wanted to notice me who never did, the people who wanted my attention but didn’t get it, and the dreams I held for the future, as unrealistic as they were at the time.
I watched lightening storms that were more magnificent than any laser light show I’ve ever seen. I listened to thunder and watched rain travel through the valley until it was playing a melodic tune on the tin roof of my grandmother’s house, all from that front porch. That was probably the only time in my life that I had the good sense to listen more than I talked.
When the scent of honeysuckle floats on the air, I head out to my own front porch swing. My swing is one of the more modern metal frames with upholstered cushions to making sitting there more comfortable. I close my eyes and think of my youth, my family and all the things that are near and dear to my heart. Breathing in the warm summer air I am reminded that I am stronger than I ever thought I might be, I am a part of everything around me. I am filled with songs yet to be sung and the seasons that have already come and gone.
Closing my eyes, I can imagine my grandmother standing on my front porch still wearing a cotton house dress underneath an apron, a broom in one hand and a dust cloth in the other as she says to me, “Dianna, a pretty girl like you ought to take full advantage of your life.” She was about the only one who thought I was pretty back then when I was still awkward and not sure of anything about myself except that I was full of dreams. Taking full advantage of my life was mostly finding a good man, having children, keeping a clean home and making sure everyone was fed and clothed, at least in her mind at the time. Taking advantage of my life meant leaving small town life behind and exploring the world I saw on television and movie screens, at least in my mind. I didn’t realize how much a country girl can miss home until I was looking at the mountains through my rear view mirror. Now my son has the same thoughts about his own life.
I make it a point to sit out on my porch at the edge of dusk. Often, my teenage son comes out to see where I am, to make sure that nothing has changed since he checked on me the last time. I know that he’s spent time closing his eyes and reflecting on his life and his dreams, maybe right there in the porch swing. The next time he comes to the door I’m going to ask him to come out and sit with me so we can watch the stars come out, probably in silence, wondering about yesterday, today and all the tomorrows yet to come.
rows of cubicles
stacks of papers
chained to a desk
chained to a computer
and sleepless nights.
when i was a child
i couldn’t wait
but now as an adult
i wonder what the hurry was.
it must’ve been to die.
it was to die