What I Mean When I Say Farmhouse

Geffrey Davis

             Time’s going has ebbed the moorings
to the memories that make this city-kid

             part farm-boy. Until a smell close enough to
the sweet-musk of horse tunes my ears back

             to tree frogs blossoming after a country rain.
I’m back among snakes like slugs wedged

             in ankle-high grass, back inside that small
eternity spent searching for soft ground, straining

             not to spill the water-logged heft of a drowned
barn cat carried in the shallow scoop of a shovel.

             And my brother, large on the stairs, crying.
Each shift in the winds of remembering renders me

             immediate again, like ancient valleys reignited
by more lightning. If only I could settle on

             the porch of waiting and listening,
near the big maple bent by children and heat,

             just before the sweeping threat of summer
thunderstorms. We have our places for

             loneliness—that loaded asking of the body.
my mother stands beside the kitchen window, her hands

             no longer in constant motion. And my father
walks along the tired fence, watching horses

             and clouds roll down against the dying light—
I know he wants to become one or the other.

             I want to jar the tenderness of seasons,
to crawl deep into the moment. I’ve come

             to write less fear into the boy running
through the half-dark. I’ve come for the boy.


More by Geffrey Davis

The Epistemology of Cheerios

this the week of our son’s first
upright wobble from kitchen

to living-room    and he begins planting
tiny Os wherever his fleshy fingers

can reach    each first shelf    each chair
cushion      each pair of shoes    he goes

to bury a piece behind the TV
inside the pool of exposed wires

we’ve been saving him from
since he took to motion     and I let him

go for it    he survives    but why
this risk    how costly this whole-

grain crumb    back from
the wilderness of worry    for whom

 

King County Metro

In Seattle, in 1982, my mother beholds this man
boarding the bus, the one she’s already

turning into my father. His style (if you can
call it that): disarming disregard—a loud

Hawaiian-print shirt and knee-high tube socks
that reach up the deep tone of his legs,

toward the dizzying orange of running shorts.
Outside, the gray city blocks lurch

past wet windows, as he starts his shy sway
down the aisle. Months will pass

before he shatters his ankle during a Navy drill,
the service discharging him back into the everyday

teeth of the world. Two of four kids will arrive
before he meets the friend who teaches him

the art of roofing and, soon after, the crack pipe—
the attention it takes to manage either

without destroying the hands. The air brakes gasp
as he approaches my mother’s row,

each failed rehab and jail sentence still
decades off in the distance. So much waits

in the fabulous folds of tomorrow.
And my mother, who will take twenty years

to burn out her love for him, hesitates a moment
before making room beside her—the striking

brown face, poised above her head, smiling.
My mother will blame all that happens,

both good and bad, on this smile, which glows now,
ready to consume half of everything it gives.

The Epistemology of Rosemary

                     —for L

Together in the garden, a cigarette cradled
between her fingers, she tells me of breeding

cockatiels—clutch after successful clutch, and what
she can’t forget: the time of one-too-many and

the smallest chick pushed from the nest.
How she thought mistake and put it back again,

only to see the same, simple denial.
And then, for days, trying to make her hands

avian, to syringe-feed the bird into flight.
One thin month lies between us and our miscarriage,

and I feel her grow silent under the new vastness
of this wreckage. I try to talk about my father

breaking blighted pigeon eggs: at twelve, I thought
patience and pressed him to wait, one week, then two,

until frustration set and he crushed the shells
before me, against the coop. I wanted to gather up

each shard, to will those gossamer embryos
into growth again—          What do we rescue

now, at home, gleaning herbs in the evening,
as swallows swerve in the fallow air? I lean over

her shoulder: her hair smells of the rosemary we take,
and of the rosemary we leave to freeze in the garden.