Patrick Carrington is the poetry editor for the art and literary journal
Mannequin Envy. He's recently been nominated for a 2007 Pushcart
Prize. His poetry is forthcoming in Rattle, The New York Quarterly, Poetry
Southeast, Concho River Review, The Eleventh Muse, The GW Review, The
Marlboro Review, The Louisville Review and elsewhere. His new book-
length collection, Rise, Fall, and Acceptance, is available from Main St.
Rag Publishing (www.mainstreetrag.com).
The Logic for Improving a Neighborhood
It's 3 in the morning. My crazy neighbor's
drunk and sleeping in the garden
under my window again. He snores
like a lawnmower, trimming
the rowdy edges off my dreams.
I'm willing to show him a little tolerance.
It's more than just community spirit
or thanks for manicuring my nightmares.
He has fair reason to seek comfort
face down in geraniums. There's something
sensible in flowers he can't find at home.
They have a valid reason for being,
even if it's nothing more
than the organized way they trick
the eye, con you into believing
in beauty again. His wife just knitted
a wool sweater for their toy poodle.
Overkill, he told her. It already has
a coat. Putting a sweater on a dog
is like topping off the ocean with a hose.
He offered to sharpen her focus
and shave the rodent first, waved
his straight razor like rat poison. It adds
a coziness to the block hearing I'm
not the only one in need of grooming.
She said if he was finally energetic, ready
to denounce death and ascend
from the lazyboy like Christ
to redeem their world, he could start
by repairing the shutters on the porch.
They're hanging off the windows
like an unbuttoned shirt. He feels not
only a certain justice in that striptease
of rot, but also the same legitimacy
for existence as his bed of flowers.
The constant need to clothe it reminds
him of his naked history, the epic
of decay, how he lost a house of dreams
by degree, one shingle at a time,
each a piece of himself
he let go and can never quite reclaim.
Finding The Sound of Oak
I used to climb my father, hands
in the calloused bark of his
as I walked up his chest
and stood on his shoulders. When
I grew he took me to a white oak
he'd planted in the woods. I
climbed that too. All the way
to the crown. It was solid like him.
in summer storms
in branches bent by snow
I'd imagine I could feel him
touch me and hear him call me,
as if he'd evolved into that tree
to lay hands on my shoulders
and say one last thing.
But more often love
was a matter of silence.
The dead come back. Do they
ever leave at all? Maybe
it's a trick, slipping into dirt
like a root. No matter if
he's resting now or hiding,
it was easy to forget
the tree. Shameful
it took me so long to know
it deserved better,
that in a truer world
it would not have blurred
into the others
as if it were just the same. I
lost it long ago to the ax
of my neglect, like the pictures
of a man I passed from frame
to scrapbook to shoebox
and locked in a closet
like a skeleton. I return
to these woods with no tongue
and barefoot. To walk quietly,
listening for his risen bones.
A man sits under the freeway bridge
fumbling with a pocket knife
every day. Opening and closing
the blade, testing it on twigs.
Some find it necessary to listen
for his footsteps after they pass,
sensing the shatter of sadness
and knowing what knives do. He
knows too, has felt them slice
young plums longing for
a lusher red. Seen them force
innocents to suffer like heroes,
paint Pollocks on tar, forsake
the meat and kill to kill. When
they go bad, it's not metal
but flesh that turns. He has
proof that in some hands
they save, that scar
on his chest where one went in
and took death out. Though
now he wishes they'd taken out
his heart instead. He could
have wrapped it in tissue
like a tiny glass egg
and put it somewhere safe.
I know the stools they come to
for comfort, the temporary peace
of low light. I too have made
wet rings on pine and mumbled
in shadowed booths. I know
the coffeeshops where they read
and sip latte, alone in corners
with Hemingway and vanilla,
with a darkness that frightens.
The streets they wander I have
known and dreams too loud,
and stars that offer no condolence
for a stumble or shiver,
and people crossing to avoid
my solitary walking. I too
have needed a coat and emerged
from doorways like a drunk,
not caring who or where I am
or was or would ever be,
of home or refuge. I have seen
the storm flag of midnight flying,
been harmed by its havoc
and sought light, moved east
for sun on my pale face.
I have rubbed against the miracle
of dawn and changed.
Like the flow of a flower,
or wound, when liquid runs
not from but to.
Water drawn. The clotting.
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