Harry Calhoun – Five Poems

Vigil

You’re away on business again
and I’m sitting up on your bolster pillow
in our bedroom and working crosswords
and reading and jotting down poems

and Alex trots his 90 jet-black pounds
into the living room every few minutes.
When I go out to check on him,
he is sitting looking through the slats

of the blinds in the living room,
doggedly waiting for you to come home.
I tell him that you aren’t arriving
until tomorrow, but every few minutes

his big clapping paws slap on the hardwood
on his way to that window. Eventually,
I close the blinds. But you know if I wasn’t human
and didn’t have the distractors of puzzles

and books and poetry (and more recently brandy)
I’d be sitting out in that window with him,
keeping the vigil I have in my heart,
with the sweet expectant innocence I see

in Alex’s honest brown eyes.

**

Peach Stone

Work is that peach stone
sprouted but bearing no fruit
in the pit of my stomach

at three a.m. income is no compensation
as my love sleeps beside me
and the dog — I love him so much

it’s hard to believe he’s mine —
sleeps on his own bed beside us.
It seems only a matter of time

before I stop confusing the peach stone
with the tree that shades me
and I roll half asleep

to and fro to either side
of the bed and try to connect
with the right decision

**

Poker face

on the edge of another ending
pushed to the brink of unemployment
or aloneness again or just fed up
with the struggle again

then realizing the struggle
Is all there is, on the edge
playing cards every day with the hand
you’re dealt, and after all these years

you still don’t know how to react
so you don’t react
and people think you are brave
or they think you’re dispassionate or

a hardass but the lack of reaction
is just the desperation of not knowing
what to do but if you’ve got them fooled
keep bluffing them but for God’s sake

stop bluffing yourself

**

Two ways of looking at things

my wife and I thought our dog
was smart because he looked
both ways before he crossed the road

then our trainer told us
it probably just meant
that he had been on the streets
before we rescued him

but doesn’t matter if you’re born smart
or if you learn smarts
me with my History degree
lived all my life on my writing

and my wits

I’m a lot like Alex
except as far as I know

he doesn’t write

**

Sherry swelling in the breast

just before bed the brown-gold halo
seems to shine at the top of the glass,
a ring almost too sweet to break
with a kiss or a sip, but that last lisp
sidling down the gullet, the slight
loss of coherence is sublime.

The breast swells proud, the poetry
cocks its feathers like the healthiest
hatchet-shy rooster. You imagine your father
and you are healthy and running
around as if headless and bleeding,
and damn anything that would stop you.

but damn it, something did, and
it was death and it was him.
Sherry swells tonight in the breast
but it cannot pump enough heart
to encircle this, enough mind to make

a simple peace
with yourself and death.

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