Some years, July is the only month that’s free of frost in this pinetree jungle. Had you been born a snake, you might expect
to leave your nest beneath the tumbled flagstones for just a brief string of weeks every year, and the few warm days on each side of these.
I sit on the porch stairs on the first day it hits sixty and set aside my chores, that hardly seem like work after tending
to Winter’s fever for so many months. It’s time for the sun to show some effort, so I’ll be the clerk of the works for the day--
I won’t criticize if the trout lilies are nodding their heads too low in the breeze, or complain that the robins are pitchy.
Instead, my demand for this Spring is that joy might not seem so desperate, might not force some invention or pursuit of beauty,
might forgo the need to recall or pretend. A snake should be allowed to laze when it may, and be happy for warmth where he finds it.
In October I’d help my father stack wood, walking a single quartered piece of oak or maple from the pile the pickup left
to the rows at the end of the driveway, cradling it in both arms, pulled to my chest like a relic leading a procession.
Proud to break the silence of the morning air with the hollow ring of each seasoned stick as it knocked against another, the dutiful son
couldn’t see how he slowed his father’s pace with his own toddling course, how each log had to be realigned to keep the cord face even.
Though age has grayed and checked my memories of that specific strain of compassion, the exemptions shown to the earnest child,
winter nights still find me carrying wood to the stove, as if the fire I keep in emulation of the sun might win its approval, and ensure the spring's return.
South Congregational Church
For over two-hundred years of Sundays, the grandparents have been the first to leave, issuing in a stream from its chalky face, then the fathers and mothers, their children flowing past the lilacs and the graveyard. With the pastor’s blessings on them, they file one by one along the nave, exiting the double doors like hopeful paratroopers from a white-washed transport, to be cast through the lily-soaked air into the great unknown of another Sunday morning.
On Having Experienced General Anesthesia for the First Time at Fifty
By the cries of the children up and down the operating wing of the hospital, I assumed I was the oldest person to be brought under anesthesia that day,
and so I thought I should have a firm grasp of the risks involved with the procedure-- the possible drawbacks and reactions, what might be lost, and what was to be gained.
And yet, waking in the recovery room, I was startled--not by the perfect absence of being there had been, a nothingness much more complete than any dreamless sleep--
but rather by the lingering regret at being brought back from that emptiness to the frailty of this same body, and the same sun like a scalpel, tracing its endless incision across the sky.
I would have liked to have lived as a bee-- a fuzzy thumb humming through some meadow, a banded thimble flying toward July, honey-drunk by noon, trimmed with the pollen of a thousand licentious flowers.
I’d be adored by vetch and buttercup, white clover and rudbeckia alike, but respected for that rapier worn at my derriere as a warning, for that sole drop of venom injected as a remedy to the smallest slight.
And compelled at last by my heightened sense of justice to use that sting and puncture the thin veil of this life, no barb would catch, and I would be allowed a final flight to the heaven of a perfumed cloud of an apple tree engulfed in blossoms, shimmering in the waxen summer sun.
Kevin Caseyis the author ofWays to Make a Halo (Aldrich Press, 2018) andAmerican Lotus, winner of the 2017 Kithara Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2018). AndWaking... was published by Bottom Dog Press in 2016. His poems have appeared in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Connotation Press, Pretty Owl Poetry, Poet Lore and Ted Kooser's syndicated column 'American Life in Poetry'. For more, visit andwaking.com