Robert Claps


At the garden store’s summer clearance sale,
you paid three dollars for this glass feeder
with a cobalt blue finish and four
flower-shaped ports to accommodate those
almost weightless messengers
who come here to refuel as they travel,
between this world and maybe
the one in which your daughter now lives.
Hand me a nail, love: let’s hang it,
brimming with sweetened water, above your wicker
reading chair; sometimes routine tasks suffice,
other times we live on Zoloft and luck.
What price would pay to whirl out of your limbs
and follow those flocks forming in our oaks?
The resurrection season is nowhere in sight,
but watch that hummer, persistent, flying sideways,
then back pedaling at the same time until it finds,
half-buried in weeds, the one flower still intact,
and, sustaining its hover, lights into your blood,
its bird heart now yours, pea-sized but pumping hard,
its beaded eyes your clear eyes that don’t even blink  
when you look up into fall’s unrelenting blue.


Each April, on the first warm day,
with dandelions already shoving  
their way up between the greening blades,
she’d lead me around the yard  
pointing to her perennials circling
the mailbox and running the length
of the gravel drive, making sure
I didn’t mistake them for the weeds.
she was about to yank, her gardening fork’s
tines flashing in my mind again
this twentieth spring of her death.   
I’m out with the sprayer, whispering
crocus, tulip, iris,   
bending close to double-check,
looking for the yellow stalk and thick,
fleshy leaves of that weed she loathed,
reminding me, once, as she kneeled
in the turned bed, that my father
would be buying rounds at Baldy’s Tap,
that his empty half-pints still clinked
and rolled under the car seat,
whispering that I, too, should watch my step
if I wanted to stay married,
before she’d thrust her spade deep under
another spreading dandelion,
then proudly hold up the root, with its hairs
so pale and delicate in the blinding spring light.

Retired from a career in software development, Robert Claps lives in his native Connecticut, near Long Island Sound, with his wife and rescue dogs. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Image, Margie, and Tar River Poetry, among others. A first book, Castings, from Antrim House Books, is due out in early 2021.



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