—with Apologies to Rilke
How I marvel at the trash truck
on Mondays that arrives
between the turkeys’ promenade
and the vet who walks her Weimaraner.
I know Rilke would object,
but the truck is like an angel,
arriving with open arms like a father
who lifts and turns his child
upside down overhead in a rush
of terrified glee and then returns him to earth
with balance unstable, the ear’s gyroscope
struggling to lessen the joyous spin.
Who knew this appearance of a trash truck
would conclude with my father,
playful and tossing, me at the window
each Monday wanting to be dizzy once more?
He Was a Whisper
Dawn, slide-quiet of a drawer, dad awake,
a weak incandescence cracking the door to my room,
his bare feet walking their heavy steps, the crackle
of a humble lunch packed in a used bag of brown paper.
He woke in the dark, moved in silence through blackened rooms
by memory and one hand out to drag and search against a wall,
exercised, elongated where none would hear the push of exhalation,
showered in faint light, ate by the clock’s dim hour, buttoned, tied by feel.
When the dog began wagging her tail against the floor
I waited like a smooth stone in the water’s wash
patient to be sparked by a ray picked by his hand poking through pines.
He was a whisper, a secret I could not hear, a haze of sound,
not the thing itself, but the truth known by shadows on the wall.
What I wanted was enough light to see him without his turning away.
Who else knew this part of his life? Not brother, not wife.
How many shallow days did he survive before being brushed into the deep?
I heard his suffering in a sigh, his audible shortcomings, his thwarting,
his discontented breath, the grunts of frustration without pleasure,
then his final whispered goodbye to me a soft penetration of my cavernous room,
a blonde oil that seeped through wood and left a polished radiance,
a hydration of the desiccation of darkness that it might slide off
and soothed friction might generate a combustion of the day.
I dreamed of seals lying on the posts below the wharf
and risen from the water of sleep aware of whiskers and a cold nose
kissing my forehead, and in the morning found his voice
echoing in my ear, me lying on the floor by the cold front door.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, spending the seasons dodging fires, floods, earth-shaking, and all the other scrambling life-initiatives. He has contributed to Heartwood, Tiny Seeds Journal, Vita Poetica, and Willows Wept Review.