Bio Note: In my retirement from college teaching, I am happily engaged most days in taking photographs, walking the woods, and making poems. I live in Glens Falls, NY with my wife Lee Shippey, whose lovely oil painting is featured on my latest book of poems, The Honey of Earth. More detail on my doings, including a gallery of my photographs, available on my website: www.davidgrahampoet.com/ For this issue I thought I’d respond to the suggested theme of “opening” with two poems about very different kinds of opening.
First Day of Open Windows
I can barely focus on "Song of Myself" for the rattle of trucks up Route 9 headed for Walmart, accelerating gloriously in exactly the American tune Whitman would have wanted, full of stink and clank, two men on a loading dock sharing a cigarette and talking shit between deliveries, the truck driver with his elbow out the window singing along to the country station, and a lone cardinal in our maple narrating the story as he understands it, a tale more about wind currents and the flash of a cat tail around the corner of the garage than about any load of charcoal briquettes making its way between greening fields and towns waking warily from winter.
He's eighty-four this year, a bit rickety, but still with all his marbles and his eyes at least OK. So what else to do but what he's always done? Main difference now is he takes a seat and lets the crowd come to him. It's an easy bunch: all he needs to do is drop a damn or shit every now and then, and everyone smiles— such feistiness at his age! That should disgust him but somehow doesn't. His paintings haven't changed in sixty years—gorgeous nudes afloat on rivers of garbage, old tires, dumpsters brimming, road kill and rusted car parts. Sometimes huge, wall-filling panoramas, but more often small ones lately. He has trouble these days with ladders and scaffolds. No one seems to mind. So he swims in talk of his practiced eye, his ease. But is it mostly habit by now, a private itch abundantly scratched? He hardly knows himself anymore, which is strange—why not grow smarter with age? He'd had every intention of doing that. Every nude woman he paints, though he does his best to vary and disguise it, remains his first wife as she looked in about 1965. His youngest daughter fetches him some wine, a glass of Pinot Grigio he's fairly sure she's watered down as much as she dares. Well, she's a good girl, though gray-faced and oddly weary—older than her mother in all these paintings, he thinks, then smiles for real for the first time today.
©2020 David Graham
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