I hope I never forget that pack of middle-schoolers
at the playground near my house, how they acted
like middle-schoolers, shouting their conversations
across the neighborhood as if showing off new sneakers,
the boys doing mean things to the girls,
the girls saying mean things about each other.
If I hadn’t been at the jungle gym with my two-year-old,
I’m sure they would have been smashing bottles
on the basketball court.
Then, like pigeons when popcorn spills,
they flocked to a spot under the basket.
Some squealed. A boy held out his arm,
keeping others back. “It’s alive,” I heard one say,
and suddenly one boy was cupping a baby bird
in his hand as another climbed the pole
that held up the net. “Give it to me,”
said the boy on the pole, and he took the bird
and placed it in the nest that was behind the backboard.
Too much misery goes down
in this city I call my home. I’m in no mood
to list it here, now. In my children’s schools,
the schools where my wife teaches,
it’s all too clear which kids won’t get past
their dead mother, their addicted father, the fact
that no one has ever read them a book…
It was just one small bird
who must have had a stupid parent—
who would build a nest
on the backside of a backboard?—
but that afternoon it was safe,
and as I chased my son, trying to stop him
from stepping in the dog shit,
the voices of the middle-schoolers fading
as they made their way up the block
to go play video games and pretend to kill things,
as I held his hand while he zipped down the slide
I thought, yeah, I guess I could live here
for the rest of my life.
J.D. Scrimgeour is the author of the poetry collections The Last Miles and Territories, and he won the AWP Award for Nonfiction for Themes For English B: A Professor’s Education In & Out of Class. With musician Philip Swanson he released Ogunquit & Other Works, a CD blending music and poetry. His third poetry collection, Lifting the Turtle (Turning Point), will appear in November 2017.
It continues to snow dust.
The sun comes out of the closet.
Jays enter under the door
jumping over a line of air.
Maybe it was just the light,
cracked somewhere, leaked out,
lucky—I thought you shifted away
in voice, my mouth to hear,
My senses are a cushion, and yet this horror appears to taste my morrow. My alarms are useless because they are on fire with the rest of my home.
Be honest now—
just for a minute; I cried.
I had him locked out—
a perfectly good wish.
Privately, for over a year now you drove off and left me.
The place cooled down beaming and bright—
put my name on a silencer (it’s not the end of the world).
In the mirror, the wooden bust of Christ Nicodemus carved
and Joseph commended to the sea, stares out for reflection.
Only a true spell
of fittingly glamorous phenomena
repaired sunstruck imagination—
Too big for your body, the whale of a bed will go on sale; also the dresser, its
three-linked mirrors tall as sails.
The Nazis are back in town.
No, I know. They never, ever left.