If I could, I’d use
my recently purchased cell phone
to call the pay phone outside
the community swimming pool
in Fairview Park, Normal, Illinois,
that summer when I was eleven,
and the country 200.
And I’d have the phone ring
just as I was passing by on my
aqua-colored bike with 24-inch wheels.
I’d also make myself more brave
than I was at eleven.
I’d hop off the bike,
thwack the kickstand down
and answer, “Hello.”
And at the other end of the line,
I would probably not be so brave.
I’d hear that eleven-year-old voice
squeak its cusp-of-puberty
“Hello”—so like my own son
on the phone earlier tonight
as I spoke to him from a bedroom
in this creaky farmhouse
two states away from my home—
“Hello.” And I would not speak,
listening to my youthful breaths,
imagining me standing there
shirtless, hand on hip,
shouts and splashes behind me
muffled by the humid Illinois air.
No. No words. The keyhole
in the bedroom door lets in
a gem of light from the hall.
“Who—“ the boy says, “who is this?”
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.
The Nazis are back in town.
No, I know. They never, ever left.
The things I never said, I said them like a man.
Like a man I insist I never said those things.
And afterwards I will assert I never said the second thing,
layer on layer of vow, disavowal. And what I believe,
you shall believe; there is only one thought and it is me.
My smell wipes across the thought of him. Crying in a pin stripe business suit. There was an accident. Perfect bodies lose perfection like melting ice. Crowns of thorns are passed out, metal trinkets to place in private. Kiss the blood rolling down.
I keep having this dream where
the white man isn’t angry
the black man entered
the white house.
There is a cabin by the bouldered beaches
of Northern California,
where the pines practically toe the foam.
This is where he’ll go, and off will come
his tailored suits,
his lacquered shoes,
his streak of blood-red tie.
She’s been sitting in the passenger seat of my car for a week.
She won’t wear her seatbelt and she won’t come in at night.
We are the easy targets
to the men who hide behind
the thin veil of life
the men in Washington
who pretend that they care.
It’s nice to scream
“This is what democracy looks like”
With a hundred people you’ve never met before.
Of course we knew what was at stake.
We all had that pill between our teeth
the gelatin cap
would not burst
no matter how hard we bit down