Poetry

Donato Buccella

 

By

Wally Swist

 

 

Giraffes

 

 

When I phoned you yesterday

to placate the inner voice guiding me to just to find out

 

how you were, you said you pray for me, and although

I didn’t phone to renew a relationship that had lasted

 

years, but would end every time we tried again to begin,

you said you might consider my leaving the door open,

 

which now I regret offering, since there actually is

a mountain between us, which I look up at every day.

 

You live on one side of it and I live on another,

as two giraffes might live on a savannah, dotted with

 

trees. I have learned, with humility, that I no longer can

feed on the leaves of the tops of the crowns of trees, but

 

need to bend my long neck, which I carry on my small

body and relatively short legs, and I retrained myself to

 

consume the leaves on the lower limbs, due to

the strength of the heat of the sun. I understand from

 

speaking with you that yet again I was pulled into

the undertow of your needing to dominate what

 

shouldn’t need to be controlled. For someone who

speaks about spirituality as much as you do, apparently

 

you haven’t fully understood that the ability of releasing

one’s ego is in direct proportion to your being graced

 

with any amount of divinity. As I am nibbling leaves

on the lower branches, you are still seeking to feed off

 

desiccated leaves higher up on the crowns. As I browse

tree to tree, I think of you on the other side of the mountain,

 

unable to open to the light you so frequently talk about,

but, ironically, sometimes even bask in. Undeniably, you

 

hold to your side of the story: that my anger is the issue,

which is incorrect, and so very self-righteous. If love is

 

higher consciousness, then we both have not loved

nor have we found a pathway to realize what has been

 

described as true bliss, both of us only having evolved

to being giraffes, roving the woodlands without ever

 

satiating our hunger, bowing our great necks in obeisance,

avoiding the wild dogs of our best intentions

 

by galloping in one direction, or another, but otherwise not

making much of a difference to anyone at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lloyd

 

 

The angry voices from the gray ranch

were loud enough to echo throughout

 

the neighborhood, and I had managed

to extricate myself from the confines

 

of the house, choosing to sit with

my head in my hands on the curb.

 

They were at it again—

my stepmother Marcella, who doesn’t

 

deserve to be immortalized in a poem,

and Fred, my father, whom I would

 

find out was suffering from Alzheimer’s

on my twenty-first birthday. You could

 

hear dishes and glasses breaking against

a wall from the street. They had

 

a special spot in the dining room that

they would choose to throw China

 

and crystal, where there was a palate

of color from all of the food that

 

splattered against their target in

the Dada of their rage. Whatever they

 

accused me of doing, and for what

incremental offense, they threatened

 

the honor student who wanted to go to

Choate with sending him to Cheshire

 

Reformatory. What surprised me was

how the sound of them in there traveled

 

and how clearly you could hear their

every word, the vitriol of their contempt

 

for each other and life itself seeping into

the balm of an otherwise delightful

 

early spring evening. This is when

Lloyd came over to me beside the curb,

 

our neighbor next door, whose garage

was always filled with a collection of

 

adding machines from his job as a

salesman with National Cash Register,

 

on which he supported his wife and

four children. Rumor had it that Lloyd

 

had lost his job and he was suffering

from a breakdown, but he sat down

 

next to me on the curb and placed one

of his large arms around my shoulders

 

to console me. He quietly told me he

understood, and that things wouldn’t

 

always be this way for me, that they

would change for the better, and that

 

I would be able to leave one day.

His presence filled me as if God, or

 

one of the angels, had come to buoy

me up from drowning in my own

 

sorrow; and he sat there with me until

night fell, not saying much, but

 

making certain to make me feel better,

having offered me from his very

 

depths the salve of assuagement and

the ointment of consolation,

 

the fragrance of the lawns blending

with that of the cooling dark macadam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porcupine

 

 

My Labrador loved Saturday mornings,

knowing that day of the week was the one

 

I would spend more time with her than

any other, the sliding glass door opened

 

on a mild day in May, that sweet transom

between spring and summer, when

 

her woof led me out of the kitchen to see

what held her attention, nose pressed into

 

the screen, and there the porcupine bristled

in all of its quivering intensity, its quills

 

flaring from its coat like an arsenal of

spines, its body the size of a piglet

 

or a small dog. I quickly took hold of

my Labrador’s collar, so she wouldn’t go

 

right through the bulge she had made in

the mesh, and slid the glassed door closed,

 

since just beyond the other side of the porch

the rotund animal’s waddle had come

 

to a halt, and it glared at us from

its pinioned shawl, its flat porcine nose

 

working to pick up our smell,

its small black eyes glinting with

 

annoyance and dread, as if we were

the ones intruding on it instead of its

 

barging through our own existence—

so much so that it barked at us once

 

before righting its arc of direction, to

continue to trundle past the windowed

 

apartment in the refurbished barn

and into open meadow to the reach

 

of the bracken, not before the lance

that its impression left caught in our

 

collective memories, where the tether

hooks of their shafts could never quite

 

pry themselves loose from safe recall—

with that one ugly bark precipitating

 

compassion for the strictures of

the natural beauty of its harrowed life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo

Wally Swist

Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Invocation (Lamar University Literary Press, 2015), and The View of the River (Kelsay Books/White Violet Press, 2017). His recent poems have appeared in Appalachia, Miramar, Mudfish, Rattle, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and upstreet. He is Guest Editor of the summer 2017 issue of Blue Lyra Review.

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