The First Time I Saw Him I Considered
Washing Him Down The Drain
Dapper little bug. Definitely not
a cockroach. Something in him brought about
an immediate sympathy. Perhaps the little golden
knobs on each scallop of his butter-brown shield
back. His crisp dust dry skin. Alas, poor friend. I begin
a slow trickle of water. Turn for the toothbrush. He’s alive!
Having made the journey like a mighty Tonka truck
from the drainplug to begin the ascent to the taps.
Yes, I’m startled. But not by him. By my willingness to assume
the worst. The worst? Death in a bug? And a few days later, alas,
he is dead in my shoe. No! A little dry tap against my stockinged
toe and he’s in the dust beneath the radiator. Moving with solid
dignity. And at my bedside. Beside the Bible and my cough syrup.
Sticky footed. But moving. Oh! I did not know you had wings!
My friend. But. It has been six months now. A year. Now, in the lamp
by the doorway, dull wings still as the bulb blazes. I tip you out. You
have caught in the sharp silver collar of the fixture. A shake or two.
Dust on the floor. I turn to other work. When I put the house to bed
you are on the edge of the hot globe, wings open, ready to launch. Out.
The Maiden Flight of the Bumblebee/
The Mating Flight of the Drone
What is the name that your father won’t hear?
What does he wear in the morning?
What did he bury outside the glass door?
Why are his pockets still empty?
(The trees of the ancients were carved into spears
to battle the star of the morning
they painted the doorways with umber and lead
they tied up their hearts in bright baskets)
Who did your father dance with in April?
What music played in the hall?
Who does he bow to? Who are his masters?
What name is scarred on his neck?
(The heaviest boulders were tipped on their sides
the lichen they wore grew two faces
the bears made a cave of the mountain’s reply
their skulls made a fountain in springtide)
your laughter begins
as a loud cry. It startles.
It blocks off my work.
You do not hear it. Your ears
open to your own music.
Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her most recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.