Bio Note: In 1976, I moved with my family to Fairbanks, Alaska to teach for a year in the creative writing program at the University of Alaska. I’m still there. I’ve published six books of poetry, as well as a collection of essays. For more information, visit my website.
Above the Tanana, April
for the New Rochelle High Class of '61 A crane, in snow showers, drifts above the river where, this morning, two jet fighters buzzed the flats. I look for other signs of life. A scrap of blue-green color on the ground turns out to be the wrapper of a half-inch firecracker. Did Jeffrey—ten next Thursday— set it off? Last fall (as thought steps back) at our 25th reunion, Molly, now a writer of romances seemed old in flashy make-up and long lashes. We danced in the 9th grade to Buddy Holly holding close, and once, in nursery school as I recall, we shed our underpants to have a look. Now 'Muzzy' (John Mazzulo) is a medical professor, adamantly gay. And most bizarre—John Seaman, our annual class president, still "a real nice guy", has made himself a star in porno flicks. But look at me. With hair down to my shoulders, back east from far Alaska and a poet—I'm one of the exotics of the class. We sat on the grass beside the whitewashed Tom Paine Cottage—kept as it was by those radical D.A.R.s—and talked about the ones who weren't there. Steph, my hopeless crush in the third grade, dead of a brutal tumor these ten years, and Andy Miller, 6-2 white point-guard, who turned to drugs and dealing, and got blown away. I said we'd put on masks: balding, gray, and wrinkled "monster" versions of ourselves. And now banning that thought, knitting my brows, I spot a spider netting two spruce bows. What's near at hand grows deeper in the evening light. Beyond her web the mountains darken under storms. A crescent moon flies suddenly among the splotchy clouds. The river's mud-green current swells under thinning ice.
The calf I held outweighed me twenty pounds and kicked like a bitch, and I could tell by his wide round eyes as they cut off his balls—hell, he was only a baby! A potent singe of hair: when they put the indelible “S” to his tender buttocks his body gave forth brute noise. And love, I thought, might be like this, the scrotal scars and scalded rump, pains that could make a man become a voice. “Moo!” the calf cried, “Moo, Moo!” as it happens my mother's name that willows in my blood. That night in the spruce-wood dining hall, the bruise on my shin turning blue hurt plenty. A bunch of bravos from the coasts, kids on a lark, so smart-assed and so horny— clowns, we ate those prairie-oysters fried.
©2021 John Morgan
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