Photo: The Map & the Territory. David Graham
One final poem by the inimitable Josh English.
My mother read the same cheap thriller
to my father in whichever town’s library
after the day’s long drive.
In rough chairs or on crates
my mother incanted
in her heavy Nordic accent.
My father, elbows on his knees,
rubbed his hands slowly
with the sound of swept sand.
He called the book tommy gun trash,
but listened on, watching blooms rise
and fade on her cheeks, her lips dry.
Her consonants landed cold
and hard as the ice blocks he’d load
into the truck four times a week,
over which he’d toss handfuls of sawdust
then stack the open eyed, frozen cod
in rows. By the haul's end they’d
be as splayed and soggy
as the tomato seeds
she’d make my brothers and me
spit out into a cloth then set on the sill
to harden and dry. Spring’s thick fruit
we’d cut open and smell in the red meat
the powdered milk of winter.
In cramped libraries,
they’d wander through
milling clusters of tired townspeople,
searching for a private isle--
art books on one side, atlases on the other--
and she’d open and begin to read.
When he closed his eyes,
he’d see the mild skylines of the towns
his route drove him past,
towns that, were he placed in their center,
would be a mystery.
They bowed toward one another
when her whispered narrative dropped
to the edge of silence like snow on water,
their foreheads touching.
Photo: Sunset Fond du Lac. David Graham