Darien Cavanaugh

Editor b, poetry 2 Comments

Ecosystems

 

The morning was cold and fat with leftover

Chinese food plastic forked on a bus stop bench

while a cat hissed at another cat for passing by.

 

It was the sun who staggered up the alley

between gray walls to let a brown bird slip

through the gray no one would call a sky and land

in a busted-ass tree that forgot the weight of leaves

as the first drops of rain fell to form exhaust puddles.

 

I watched the bird perched there on a janky branch

as I scooped the last bits of crusty brown rice

and goopy-sauced beef into my mouth until

the bird flew off in a way I could never understand

and there was nothing left to do but drop

the white flap-top box into the black metal garbage can

and begin the long drizzly walk home, past

the last few high-rises quiet for the weekend,

the parking lots and weed lots, the underpass where tin

can fires warm homeless dreams and bold youth

leave their names on tall walls holding up busy streets

with no idea of what’s underneath, the renovated mills

and the worn out millhouses, the slick path where

fearless lovers and shitfaced vagrants sneak

to disappear in a tangle of weeds and malt liquor bottles

and silence and muddy banks and dark privacy,

to where the sidewalk finally becomes bridge.

 

It has been too long to remember the first time,

but somewhere along the years I picked up a habit

of stopping halfway across the bridge to pull

a candy bar I saved for the moment from my pocket,

tear open the wrapper, bite off a mouthful,  enjoy

the shame of chocolate and toffee on a drunk morning,

and stare down into brown water tumbling over

shallow rapids, thick with the dirt of centuries

of snapped lines and Styrofoam and sunken canoes,

runoff from the chicken plant, the cemetery.

 

A length of pine trunk and the two rocks it wedged

between before I ever passed through catch everything

catchable in the ambling current, flecks of scale and shit,

twigs and pebbles and leaves, plastic grocery bags and

frayed cigarette butts, grains loosed from stones and bones,

to hold it all together, gather it all up to make it  part of

themselves, to grow into something bigger until there is

an island of the wasted and the forgotten left behind

in the middle of everything, piling up all over itself

every moment, waiting for it all to take root and settle in

so the otters and great blue herons may rest there one day.

 

I do not stop to remember, to reminisce, to grow

nostalgic. I stop for the forgetting, to let the days slip

from me in that time between then and now, that place

lost here and there, in the cool warmth of early morning

as the sun finishes rising over the dawn-misted water

that passes under me and disappears forever downstream.

 

I stay only long enough to finish what I brought

with me, swallow down the last bite, take the empty

wrapper and fold it neat as a letter from a dead

lover, tuck it in my pocket before moving on.

  

by Darien Cavanaugh

 

 

 

From a Window in the Humanities Office Building

 

The trees along College Street are green fists punched

through the concrete foundation of the campus.

 

The rooftop of the Colloquium Café is flat white,

as lonely and alien as arctic plains and lunar seascapes.

Students are drinking iced coffee and eating cold sandwiches

at wrought iron tables under blue canvas umbrellas.

 

Your building is across the brick courtyard,

but your office does not have a window.

 

Still I am standing here again,

my thoughts drawn in your direction,

as I imagine that somehow you will be there

behind a new window built just for us, waving back

to me with the selfishly joyous smile of a child

who sees a friend enter the waiting room.

 

by Darien Cavanaugh

 

 

 

Capital

 

As a gesture of compromise, they took

the flag from atop the dented copper dome

and planted it where the grounds meet

Main Street but would not surrender it.

 

That flag’s post reaches seven generations

deep into hard-packed earth, so the sound

of wind whipping red, white, and blue

cloth echoes through downtown

and sunlight turns to shadow as it bleeds

through faded stars and graying memories.

 

Passersby shake their heads

or salute with small nods,

take photos for skeptical friends back home,

simply ignore it, or chuckle and ask

 

Is this it?

Is this what it was all about?

 

by Darien Cavanaugh

 

 

Darien Cavanaugh received his MFA from the University of South Carolina. His work has been published or is forthcoming in The Dos Passos Review, Memoir (and), The Minnetonka Review, The Blue Collar Review, Struggle, Pank, The James Dickey Newsletter, Megaera, The Pickwick Press, Gertrude, I-70 Review, Kakalak, and The San Pedro River Review. He lives in Columbia and works at The Whig.

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