Clouds hang low in the heat, heavy bellied animals.
Perspiring Boy Scouts plant small crisp flags squarely
beside every mailbox in Cedar Creek, vans slowly
trailing with fresh reserves. When they are done,
they shed their clothes—piles of khaki snake skins,
then jump into to the pool to splash and bob,
screaming Marco and Polo at their lung-tops.
I watch them from the adjacent baby pool, as
my daughter pours water from one measuring cup
to another. She frowns and pours a little water
on her stomach and toes, before reaching again
for a blue bucket to fill—precise in her rituals,
so much so it often pains her. My efforts
to help only vex her more. Nothing left but to
glance at my thighs underwater, which I do
casually, distractedly as if the white behemoths with
their wide groves of stretch mark were something
which roamed along the ocean floor in another age.
My mind runs then re-runs over a recent slight.
I conjure it up again, all the real and imagined
indignities, so lost in pride I don’t know how long
my daughter has been leaning against me now, pouring
water on my knees, the right then the left and right.
I have heard when angels finally arrive
the tongue turns shorn stone. The air is
struck dumb, and stripped trees are helpless
to do a thing but toss and maybe dance.
Some come here for a few days then leave
with bright shells fastened to the insides of
plastic pails. They drive tired burnt bodies
inland satisfied they have seen something of
Immensity. But some of us are wintering,
still pacing the coastline, walking far off
enough from you now wearing such a bulky
coat it doesn’t matter whether it is a man
or woman who carries sorrow in their hands
pushed deep in their pockets—it doesn’t matter—
one’s age or station, when there’s so much
old weather rattling round the head.
I am staying. I am staying.
I have not yet had a word.
The train in my heart gathers
speed for the mountains,
it takes one last pause between
shattered rock and mottled leaf.
The passengers inside sigh,
wanting to crush the ground—
to see what wine and word spring
up from the rich mulch-parchment.
I could tell them to take cheer.
But I know too well how light
like this can set one weeping,
turn one fool, make one sigh
for all the lovers whose limbs
still lie unknotted—caught
deep down in the dark grain
of unfathomable waters.
The populist had a dream the swimming pool
was filling up, more and more families arriving
in their mini-vans friends of friends getting out
with towels and goggles. The populist watched
Grannies with their skirted suits ply the shallow
end with Styrofoam rings, gently fanning the water.
The populist grimaced as babies with improper
swim diapers floated, un-innocent lilies in the arms
of their baseball hated gossiping mothers. When a little
girl dropped half her orange popsicle in the water,
a small colored iceberg trailing its dye, he screamed
The scream died in his throat before sound emerged.
The populist was not really a populist. He should
have known it. The way he polished his shoes. Cut his
grapefruit segments aft to fore and fore to aft.
The way he lamented (for days) that referencing
The Stones of Venice would have been so apropos,
bringing up an intersection that may have been
quite possibly very illuminating. When a boy
with a livid green something pulsating in and out
of his left nostril ran to do a cannonball into
the deep end, the populist woke up sweating
then looked around his empty room,
grateful and ashamed. Then he showered.
Instead of driving, he took the number eight
bus to work, planning to brush against
an especially brutish looking elbow for penance.
Jenn Blair has been published in Copper Nickel, Kestrel, the Tulane Review, New South Review, Rattle, Blood Orange Review, and Santa Fe Review among others.