A Simple Gift
Before I left, I resented every minute
spent cleaning my room, feeding the dog,
dragging the trash to the curb. Any request
that encroached upon my idle time
was an unbearable sacrilege.
A year from home, and I’m back visiting,
shearing a jade maze behind a lawnmower,
humming along to the drone of its motor,
smiling at finches as they labor at the feeder
while I sweep my parents’ porch.
All that was so dear about my time
has been scrubbed away by the wider world,
and a day that’s clear to chip at a list
of chores now seems a simple gift.
Whatever heaven might be, I’d be willing
to come back down for a while
and do nothing all day but wipe off
counters and wash up the dishes,
and the sound of my mother’s gentle chiding
would be a rain that rinses the morning clean.
Within the porcelain cauldron of her new
electric washing machine, his wife
would work her alchemy–rinsing the smell
of silage from his socks, the stomp and tramp
of six generations of dairy cows
from his dungarees, adding a few drops
of bluing to the load of his white shirts.
Cooked dry in the sun, edged with the iron’s heat,
these shirts would hang cooling in his wardrobe
like frosted forms huddled in an icebox.
And then the work week’s transformation,
the alchemy complete: the farmer’s son
turned office clerk, a scarecrow plucked
from its field, driving toward the city
each morning in those fresh white shirts
made whiter to the eye by her indigo potion.
Black Rat Snake
From the pines behind the shower house,
it cut through the campground beach like a drop
of midnight poured back into the lake,
bisecting families that shrieked on their towels,
parting the stillness of that summer day.
Fifteen years old and weary of vacation,
I watched, admiring the panic
this five-foot stockwhip lashed across the sand
before writing its escape on the surface
of the water in a flowing script.
How enviable to fashion chaos
from your presence, to be both dangerous
and beautiful–a single strand of terror,
an onyx fuse that might detonate the day.
Kevin Casey is the author of Ways to Make a Halo (Aldrich Press, 2018) and American Lotus, winner of the 2017 Kithara Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2018). And Waking… was published by Bottom Dog Press in 2016. His poems have appeared recently in Rust+Moth, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Connotation Press, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Ted Kooser’s syndicated column ‘American Life in Poetry’. For more, visit andwaking.com.