They’re floating out there, my string of stand-ins,
understudies, minor characters and back ups.
One father is a railroad track, the other a watch
that kept train times. One father
a gun never shot. Another the tree
who got good at dodging my car. Another
the car, a ’78 Impalla big as a boat
with two tank doors. My father the bank,
the good soap, the swat and the cloak. My father
the hat. Another, the man with the hand jive.
One father, alone in the bar, asleep,
afield, afoot, alive at least. Another father carved
deep in the wood, one balanced between
two states. One father who told me
what he found, another father who should
have told me more, but like all shoulds
this one emits a dying sound.
One father a fist, snapped and twisted into the face
of the poor sap who looked at him wrong,
another a book splayed on the couch,
a thriller in which somebody fucked
with the wrong guy and lookout,
here comes the revenge hammer.
Another father is the lever, another the pulley,
another the chute, an ornate contraption
with a trap door that shuttles me down
to my real father, mute, alone, silhouetted
sitting in a chair in a dark room
watching a home movie of us flicker
across the screen. He doesn’t invite me
to sit but I’m happy to see him so intent
searching for himself in my face.
Heard rumor a catfish come up
Wills Creek to sit his vastness in the shallows
with hooks hanging off lips and whiskers
like porcupine quills, antennae big enough
to get cable, and a hard-won wiliness to spring
from any man-made trap trying to trophy him.
Didn’t hurt he was an easy hundred pounds,
or so I heard, of solid old-man muscle, the kind
of flab that could snap into action to whip any
whipper snapper, yank loose any hook no matter
the cost to his battered body.
Most of us didn’t want to catch him, just catch
glimpse of his spine’s archipelago, maybe
a whisker poking out of water murky
as mud, a way to fill long, hot afternoons
with legend, longing, and the hope that something
mythical awaited us if we just waited long enough
even though the wait lasted, for most of us, our whole lives.
If he ever existed, he must’ve moved on to
another waterway out of earshot, forgot by our collective
brains, moved on into another dreamscape where
his whiskers sharpened somebody else’s desire
to brush against a divine animal oldness, spot from
a safe distance what toll freedom takes on a body.
House Of Silver
Somewhere there’s a house for us, a house for the us of long hours. You fill it with herbs, deer antlers, and bird nests. Mirrors reflect back only the us of our best guess, where we invest
in a Good Stove. The house sits on a soft hill, the hill from whose height we watch our younger selves climb, struggle, hope, look up to our old-us. If this is all too much American dream
I can take it out later, but there’s something in the feathers and hollow bones that lets me
hold to this air-us. The house is not small, because we do not need to be small. You fill the house
with sewing machines and canning jars, books about the sea, budgets and lists, maps, dried
flowers, beeswax, song, acorns and bourbon. An altar in the corner of the house for
everything we’ve lost, the us our life cost, love’s ash. Painted white with scraps of sky,
the window cracked a bit above so the wind blows through, lets fresh air in.
You’re at our kitchen table, arms full of eggs, twilight’s sienna in your silver hair, you’re
out in the yard hacking a nice edge for your new garden patch, you’re asleep in the bed
and I’m walking up. The stairs creak the us of age. Dream catchers hang loose.
Look – out the window in the upper air, a blue patch just above
the roof line hangs there long enough before coming down in light.
Jefferson Navicky is the author of four books, most recently Head of Island Beautification for the Rural Outlands (2023) as well as Antique Densities: Modern Parables & Other Experiments on Short Prose (2021), which won the 2022 Maine Literary Book Award for Poetry. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection.