Every man, said Camus,
is the first
Here in this backcountry
is Buddy, a boy of about seven.
Because of certain kinks in his
and perhaps because he is so much alone,
his nature may be evolving toward reflection,
day by day the order of things
suggesting more of itself.
There is a quality of secret pleasure,
about his uninstructed observations of dew,
of leaves flying on the wind sooner than twigs,
of a damaged finger nail growing back,
a severed finger lost forever.
Of beans growing in the garden
only if his father plants the seeds,
weeds thriving everywhere on their own.
Although such ideas become
among the welter of usable phenomena.
Although he may duly acquire arts and sciences.
Intellection, skepticism, heresies.
Empathies for homo
erectus, Lucretius, Proust.
Minds His Daughter's Infant
In His Workshop
Aha. You wake.
I'm a noisy fellow, I know.
How about a smile?
swinging the crib closer to his work
Well then, look what I'm doing here.
This is a fine piece of mahogany.
Five and a half inches by three by a half.
turning it about
I have made all six planes
as smooth as your belly.
Today it is my treasure.
It seems to me an exactly right thing,
Don't ask why.
We can never quite fathom the psyche.
How it knows what it knows.
How it discovers its delusions.
cradling it in his hands
But even as this artful object was telling me
how it wished to be shaped,
I understood that it had yearnings,
fantasies of membership in an ensemble.
propping it against a chisel
So now is the pondering time.
To what community of symmetries
might we both consent,
my mahogany beauty come alive
and my choosing faculties,
the eyes behind my eyes?
The morning waits
for an electrochemical commotion,
a fragment of soliloquy,
a leaping irony.
Listen to the silence behind my clattering.
Anything can happen there.
sitting on his stool
There are strange things in the world.
You'll find out.
A little dog dyed pink.
Your professor may someday lecture
on the despair of pure possibility.
But for birds like me that is exhilarating.
You see, it's a branch of metaphysics.
Seems a real place when I'm there.
With a past and a future,
and something like my pulse, my fever.
Aha. I see that is all you can tolerate.
The eyelids droop.
rolling the crib away
Dream of sweets and kind voices.
The Letters Between The
Andrew, until the age of thirteen,
and Raymond from five to eighteen,
were at home together in Cedar Rapids
with their parents and neighborhood.
Thereafter, for years—
Raymond escaping adolescence in the army,
then by happenstance and a strain of practicality
in Cape Girardeau and Louisville
becoming a salesman, then a building contractor—
Andrew, too small for college basketball,
his disposition uncongenial,
drifting through Peoria and New Orleans
as a golf course hand, waiter, telemarketer,
settling at last in suburban Phoenix
as the owner of a bicycle shop—
for years they met rarely, on family occasions,
and without candors,
for years, each learning to be married,
to compromise with the cultures they encountered.
Raymond's mail one day in his late forties
contains a note, unique in their history, from Andrew.
He is worried about their parents, it says—
perhaps disingenuously, one considers.
Does Ray have recent
news of them?
Ray replies with reassurance
and big-brotherly inquiries about Andy's situation.
After a conspicuous delay
arrives a sober, impetuous, cautious letter from Andy,
the gist of which is that he now sees—
so late, maybe too
late to matter—
how unaware he has always been
of what was probably happening back then
to all four of them.
Ray is anxious, one senses, protective,
embarrassed by Andy's confessional tone,
tries to maintain a complacent attitude.
Even before his response can have arrived
he receives another letter from Andy.
It strikes one as sorely earnest
but fevered and fragmented,
as if written in spurts of disclosure:
memory keeps secrets,
he had learned about
winter with Ray,
about throwing a curve
it was not a necessary
place he had sought,
not to be anonymous or
but a place worth
taking responsibility for,
he has snapshots of
of Ray and himself,
alone and together,
and of them all—after
church, it looks like,
it is true that we can
be two people, or more,
he had thought life
would be more normal,
he has noticed that he
has his father's chuckle,
his way of holding his
but he does not
remember being alone with him,
now he knows what
he remembers the knot
of anger in his throat,
what was was,
what is is,
what we are we are.
After a week or so, still pondering an answer,
still deliberating with his wife,
Ray has a last note from Andy.
Sorry, it says.
We're going to the
mountains for a bit.
See you on Christmas,
Oliver Rice's poems appear widely in journals and
anthologies in the United States and abroad. Creekwalker released an interview
with him in January 2010. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, is
published by Cyberwit and is available on Amazon. His online chapbook,
Afterthoughts Siestas, and his recording of his Institute for Higher Study
appeared in Mudlark in December 2010.