Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Ruth Z. Deming


One morning I woke up with that feeling of “ugh”:
I haven’t written a good poem in nearly a month.

Only yesterday
I called and invited myself over.
Slipped on my black clogs
and walked out the front door
to the wild cheering of
birds – a woodpecker going at it –
o, succulent insects! I love you so –
a dog barking
at some
real or imagined threat
to his master.

the wind was rising
as I crossed Cowbell,
you couldn’t see it,
only its emissaries
the northwesters
and southeasters
blowing my hair and
light spring jacket
as I walked up the hill that was
the Kiernans’ front yard

As I stood awaiting entry I turned around
and looked at our street from
their point of view.
The Kiernan slant. Could be the name
of a magazine.

Neil’s garden, across the street,
a horticulture student at Ambler, who
in a greenhouse far away
devises hybrids of daylilies,
Neil was a wonder, a man with
a red pick-up, but his
day lilies? Whoa, back to the labor’atory with ya, Neil.
The colors are dismal.
Not on the ROY P VIG spectrum,
as we know it,
though don’t you really wonder madly
about the colors our poor eyes can’t see?

A quick glance at my own house
tucked in among the others
lovely, yellow, flowerless in March,
the little kitchen
they’d put on sticking out like
a shoebox of marvelous windows,
you should see how lovely it looks at night when you
round the bend in the darkness and the
kitchen is all lit up with Dan in there
heating up his processed food in the microwave

Hello! said Patrick opening the screen door.
You knew them from afar.
And went into their house the first time.
A thrill. Almost as good
as sex. Perhaps even better. I couldn’t jog
my mind to remember what that felt like.

The living room was on the left.
They let me sit anywhere I liked.
I chose a big leather chair with studs.
You had to lean way back
it felt like I was Alice,
falling backward down the hole.

Wow, I said laughing, this is some
chair. Sue came in with the baby
and placed him, in the way that
mothers have, in a special rocking cradle.

I went over to say hello and see
what he thought of me.
He lifted a see-through eyebrow
and blew bubbles from his fat little lips.

If you were looking for the Dalai Lama
you need look no further.

Babies, I told them. I love them.

I didn’t say I’d have another in a minute, the wife might get
suspicious and think I was after Patrick.

“Can I get you something?
Orange juice? Coca-Cola? Iced Tea?”
“Water is my favorite,” I said.
“A glass of cold water, please.”

It was one of those deep blue glasses
she brought me, blue like
old-time medicine bottles.
“A blue glass!” I said in wonder
stretching out my hand.
It was heavy. A very deep
blue. With octagonal lips.

What manner of people were the Kiernans
the People of the Blue Glass.
People who knew the meaning of things.
I’d never drunk from a blue glass before,

and as I was drinking I looked down the glass
with my nose inside
drinking and looking at the same time.
Good as sex. Possibly better.

I stayed for an hour.
Couldn’t pick up any clues whether they wanted
me to stay or go.
We’d just met and I was waiting for them
to kick me out.

I stood up to go and we went over to the living room window.
So they were into windows too.
It had panes like mine did. Once, I took the panes out
just for fun
and couldn’t stand the way the world looked without panes
They gave focus and security, they sharpened Charley’s house
and allowed the dogwoods to take on immense importance.

“I write poems about my neighbors,” I said.
I thought it best not to tell Patrick I’d written
seven about him and his little white dog, Wesley.
Played it safe and told him I’d
written more poems about Charley
than any man I’d ever met.

Sue was on the couch with her legs
curled up. “Why would you write
about Charley?”
She was coming out of her shell.
I thought a moment. We all discussed our
impressions of Charley. To Patrick,
Charley was an old man always
outside clipping his bushes. Patrick would
come upon him and try to start a conversation.
But Charley was stone deaf without his
hearing aids. “I just gave up,” said Patrick.

“Now you’re going to write about us,” said
Sue with certainty.
“No, no,” I laughed. “You’re far too normal.”
“Too boring,” she and Patrick said together
like a singing duet.
“Yes! Aren’t normal people boring?” we agreed.

“Actually,” I said with narrowed eyes
gazing down Cowbell
speaking in the kind of voice
you use when you’re alone and
think no one’s listening,
actually, I said peering out the window
at all the houses and lawns and trees
and flowers ready to burst into bloom:
not a one of them’s a bore.



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