Thick, Slick, Blackfly Physic
Like Robin Hood who for disguise dyed face and hair
with walnut juice before shooting in the contest at Nottingham’s fair,
my father in June, because June means flies, applied dark liquid to his skin
while sitting on a lean-to’s front log stoop, getting ready for a day in the
woods to begin. Small measures of camphor, pennyroyal
and citronella simmered in a saucepan of pine tar and mineral oil—
he’d made this potion at home on my mother’s kitchen
stove, and now passed it around in a bottle. We divided up the day’s goods,
filled backpacks and canteens, then rubbed the stuff into our necks,
arms, backs of hands and wrists. Come afternoon, my father would perplex
us with his cheer. Carefree as Robin when cornered by the sheriff’s men,
he waved a spruce sprig overhead to chase away the flies,
and, when we whined, listened with what seemed mild surprise,
happy himself—no matter what, I guess—to walk all day in the woods again.
Charles Weld’s poems have appeared in literary magazines such as Southern Poetry Review, The Evansville Review, Worcester Review, CT Review, etc. Pudding House published a chapbook of his poems, Country I Would Settle In, in 2004. Kattywompus Press published another chapbook, Who Cooks For You? in 2012. A mental health counselor, he’s worked primarily in a non-profit agency treating youth who face mental health challenges, and lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.