Kevin Casey – three poems

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.


Bluing

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.

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Kevin Casey – three poems

Retread

Southbound, chasing mirages that ebb
like waves of mercury — a black form blossoms
to the right of the broken center line’s semaphore.
It might have been a skunk or porcupine
before it paid that final toll, but closer, its edges
flare like wingtips poised in a parody of flight,
and so it was perhaps a raven or a crow
whose blasé gait was just a single hop too slow.
But closer still it shows itself instead to be a scrap
of retread, remains of a tire shredded and discarded —
never living, yet no less lifeless — a relic dejected
and framed in my rear view mirror, diminishing.


Too Heavy to Bear

Far too large to lift, it grieved me to leave
behind the soapstone stove that held
my house fast to the hayfield’s edge,
when the storms of December
sought to pry up shake and shingle.

And I had to forsake the bordering pond,
and the gauze of billowing stars affixed
across its face with ranks of cattail spikes.

I found no way to pack the embered
sumac hedge the autumn frost ignited,
its banked colors stirred and brightened
by the twilight to reignite the sun.

In the end, I disowned all those memories,
assembled in bundles too heavy to bear,
box flaps left fluttering in the dooryard
as I cast off that frayed line of driveway.


And I Kissed Them Both, Then Drove to the Office

When our first was born, there was a day of waiting
that swelled beyond hope and worry in the small,
unnumbered hours to an ecstasy where I saw myself
standing beside a hospital bed as whispering nurses
rushed by, pushing machines on chrome casters.

In two years’ time, we had cultivated the mundane,
weeding out both joy and terror, and left that child,
chubby and diapered, to play with his grandparents
on a bright morning while we gathered his little sister.
Pink and punctual, we collected her like a houseguest;
by noon both mother and baby were fine but tired,
the two having rushed to keep their appointment.


Kevin Casey has contributed poems to recent editions of Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hartskill Review, Rust + Moth, San Pedro River Review, and other publications. His new chapbook The Wind Considers Everything was recently published by Flutter Press, and another from Red Dashboard is due out later this year.

He blogs at andwaking.com.