‘Suburban Neighborhood Pastoral’ and other poems
By: Michelle Reale
Suburban Neighborhood Pastoral
The gray squirrel under the bald tire. The faded beach towels over the front porch railing. Little girls with dirty hair and flip flops. The buzz and drone of a lawnmower. The small plastic pool on the front lawn. The red with white polka dotted lantern fly nymphs clustered on a Walnut tree. The faux cheerful song of the ice cream man, inching his truck down the street. The dry dirt being blown around by an intermittent breeze. Dark clouds mixed with sun. A man with a glistening torso and hiking boots, his t-shirt wrapped around his head, shovel in hand. The mailman with a large, sweating bottle of water. The shades that are drawn against the relentless sun, like closed eyes. The reverberating sound of the basketball hitting the rim on the court over and over. The young mother with puffy eyes and a stringy ponytail doing a slow promenade up and down the street, menthol cigarette smoldering in her right hand. The mass marketed paperback in the grass next to the lounge chair. The slam of a back door as kids run in and out , in and out. Back to School Sale flyers littered on front porches. The mercury that continues to climb on the gas station thermometer. The heat wave threat in the 10-day forecast. The warm water coming out of the garden hose. The gnat and its insistence on flying inches from your face. The glass of iced tea, cold and, like most things we think we might love, enticing, but far too sweet and cloying to the taste.
We are built to extend ourselves, but the shod feet taking one step after another on ancient stones, leading to a monument on a hill, has the potential to turn to sooty ash. It is folly to move too far from the decorative city fountains where you might plunge your head, or dip your breasts into its coolness, even though the locals will laugh at you, but really, not for long. They, too, are incinerated from the inside out. They too, now sport the ridiculous straw hats and visors that are customarily de rigueur of the pale, overweight tourists with their irritations and idiosyncrasies, who like to tell, with pride, how they have no tolerance for the sun. In cafes, people rest their heavy, sweaty heads on cool Formica tables while tired ceiling fans do endless dusty revolutions with barely a hint of relief. The solleone is pervasive, so forget the shade, the afternoon pasta, that sweating glass of wine that will have you staggering home, with your tongue arriving on the doorstep before you do. Devise a plan to be able to survive the heightened intensity of mercury, wherever you may find yourself. It’s time to dream a different kind of dream now. Dig a hole and crouch in the arms of cool Mother Earth, before she breaks all the records then spins off, trailing sparks, to a faraway place, and turns her back on us forever.
When Summer Begins to Die
my mother begins to hear old time ballads, a deep voice crooning the vagaries of love and longing, on planets far away. It is difficult to pinpoint when it began. She enjoys the music immensely, but it interrupts her telenovelas. She says that the singing stops and starts in fits, and the man singing just might have a temper. Her unusually large ear, fit with a flesh colored hearing aid, twitches and swivels in different directions, doing reconnaissance, trying to pick up an errant musical signal. Her mother, long gone, interrupts the musical broadcast with advice on being old, and how, at some point, your life is just full of generalizations and unanswered prayers. My mother tells her, times have changed. English poets wrote sonnets for 400 years, now what? But her mother recedes to a place some dream about, and the crooning begins again. My mother closes her eyes and smiles, saying can you hear it? I close the window before the novel cool air we desperately thought we wanted reaches her, like most things, unaware and unprepared.
Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry and flash collections, including Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Blood Memory (Idea Press), and In the Year of Hurricane Agnes (Alien Buddha Press). She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review.