By Eugene Ryan
The Wow! signal*
We’d visit him in the home,
only at the top of the road.
No coin for the ferryman
but gates of a sort
where they’d buzz you in,
and straightaway the smell.
‘Just passing through’ I’d tell myself,
drawn to look
and not to look.
Changing channels by remote
was one way I could help.
Also the smuggled whiskey and
From Palgrave’s Golden Treasury we’d launch him,
feed him out a line or two
and watch him go,
unspooling from his darkened mind
tufts of verse into
the humid air.
As we left to go
he took our hands and squeezed;
just one long dash.
He may have spoken thanks
but it’s the eyes
Long haul flight,
my son is slumped across my lap.
From beneath the meal tray
the beauty of his face
does he feel
my kisses, my embrace
contain the still encrypted pulse
of future past?
This is home now
I’d jog down through the back roads from my work,
the blazing green of tedious summer days,
to step among the guide ropes and look out
as if it was, and would remain, a secret
from the wind that I’d be here.
To move in felt like graduating, passing
to a brighter, clearer, self, the wood
smell and the graceful emptiness, the rain.
Surprised each morning, as the children slept
that I had made it here, to happiness,
but neither chance that I had landed here,
the confluence of currents bringing me
so close to cherished memories in polaroid.
The porcupine’s dilemma was for me
decided by the first and primal need
for peace, and for a time the dividend of peace
held good and sunsets were enough,
held snug by family orbits and the plot.
Upstairs we’ve yet to grow into the space,
like trousers handed down. The kids still sleep
bunched tight amidst the debris and their books.
Time was we’d stop to listen, story down,
for footfalls of Fantastic Mr. Fox,
and in the concrete freshly laid below
we even found a pawprint. (Just the one)
November, and the North wind opens up,
but let it come. The wood is cut and stacked,
the whiskey and the knitwear all arrayed,
and I am set. At night I look across
the valley, once the sea, its history
still traceable in place names and the way
it darkly lies, framed by the silent woods
and oddly peaceful motorway. Just once
I woke to snow, his back in shadow, face
lit blue, my son took in the lushness and
we watched the awful softness of its fall.
When Granddad’s round, you’d think his senses dimmed,
the way he shuffles, curses, picks his tools
and yet his eye for danger godlike in
capacity to find disaster
unforeseen by man, so by extension, me.
Just leave him, says my wife, just watch him go
so overnight, it seems, a shed appears
more solid than the house it serves, I’d guess.
His many works surround and gird the house
against the storms foretold, or for my wife
against a day when no one watches out
If I wrote down upon an endless map
the memories that tied themselves to place,
in spots and veins, as also by the gaps,
a negative would bloom, of form and space,
a pattern that could hold my life entire.
And if I were to cup it in my hands,
a desiccated coral filigree,
might I find comfort tracing out its span
Or answers to the thoughts that trouble me.
Or might I best just skim it from the shore
and let it come to rest upon some shelf
to spread its form across the ocean floor
where I could swim, an angel to myself.