Dressing For Her
I'll find my best two-dollar shirt
the one with buttons off a trenchcoat
hung from a collier's bathtub's clawfoot
in the thrift store
that first looked like a bad spackling job.
I'll snap-beat the dust out' my best nickel jeans,
the one whose zipper
isn't fishing wire & jumper cables:
whose cuffs aren't electrical tape.
I'll find the best undershirt
not held together with machine paint
from a yellowed-handkerchief
stuck to an envelope scented, rose-hips,
in a travelling trunk
for eight bucks at a rummage sale.
The work-boots are my grandfathers;
the morning of April's afternoon he died
he took past their kitchen
putting my grandmother back together from splinters,
from ditches gouge-swept across an eye burned with creosote,
witnessing her humped reliquary at the maple slab -
she trellised by a spire of cigarette smoke
& he knew he had done nothing for her
but make her want for Revere Beach
& petticoats that would bust should the shoulder-stitching
get as far as the wrist-stump
stronger then a want for her children's prosperity;
The Church Mouse
had Delbert Knoll's
battered brown railroad boots
from his widow & a tag from the laces said "$11."
Grandpa bought 'em for 12
& dumped his Barlow plain toes
in a wrought-iron trash can
whose lattice-slats his fingers laced around
when the ambulance found him
balanced on parietal in the street -
his waist slipping off the curb,
Knoll's shoes submerged in in the gutter's stagnant rain water
not yet dried into the vanes of a sparrow's lost feather.
I want you to hear me right now:
may we be silent with each other in bare feet
& tangled breath
O! I'll stitch up every hole & tear I have with sinew & brine
before I mute my loping to you
in the crashing vespers of a dead man's leather stride.
PAUL SKYRM says he grew up in a town erected for railroad and factory men who got tired of waking up to smokestacks and stars greased with creosote. "My treehouse was a water-treatment plant and the cuyahoga river threaded it's way through oak trees six turns from my house. I named bushes, ants, butterflies and birds from hearing them speak their names; I learned cloud-shape by watching the sheep turn to ostriches to blood-splatter to blue sky.
My father built gabbeons and retaining walls to fortify that which would erode; he fills the leaks in himself with wire-cages weighed down with a load of gravel & mortar. He moves slow, but his thoughts are with you. My mother cared for forgotten things, made music with claw-hammers and screw-drivers, saw her parents kept covered and didn't care the lights turned on when they left."
Frost was asked "what is poetry?" and he said "it's the thing poets do." So I ask myself "what is a poet?" and it answered "it's the thing poetry does." Carry that with you.
Reach PAUL SKYRM here: email@example.com or here: www.myspace.com/tonightthedeadprayforus