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December 8, 2023 Poetry

5 Poems

Dave Harrity

5 Poems photo


In a casket, a flower emerging from a sleeve is magic.

No one’s quite sure what to make of it
& now it’s guaranteed your kin won’t soon forget you.

Sure, there’ll be rumors. Some will say
you were a prophet-witch, some just a sweet fool
who couldn’t resist a joke.

You’ve lived long enough to know
that histories write themselves & aunts can’t let a damn thing go.

Things like this certainly astound,
like the ways people once told of coming rain
before doppler—with joints or curls—or curing colds
from shine & forest herbs. Your folk & lines
furrowed in the right row nearer to others.

Best thing to do is pick a spot to go into the earth
before someone else picks it for you,
& let the dodge emerge like a shoot—
the grass will grow back over but
they’ll still remember you, probably.

You know better than all of them—that past
that meant so much is less than nothing
when they’re leaning over your body & the preacher
prays you home.

It’s natural to want another walk,
more time—to live past that last comfort
& stay with what you’ve learned to love—
but there are other things waiting, & God it’s genius:
if they’re peeking, will they ever be surprised.



The twin boys have breathed a day’s worth of air,
& it’s already effort trying to think of ways to teach them.
Not out of cruelty but out of a need to show them that
the problem is the subtle drone of routine, of too much
consistency—that variety is a lost art. You know that both
don’t have to be either circumcised or uncircumcised,
but people demand clarity. But fathers aren’t people,
& sons are not the sum of one decision.

Not today, but someday they will learn how to set goals
for financial security, find solace in regularity before
a 2 PM nap, trim nails while watching the news.
That’s the kind of regime too private to discuss, really.

Right now, they're not old enough to know about choices.
Too busy laddering their mother's ribs to sip the halo
of each breast. Decades away they will understand
why you chose what you chose—revelation subtle & clear:
Laying in beds at night a country apart, slipping back
the sheath & pinching down like molding a clay vase;
the other with his finger on the tip & pushing forward skin
with his thumb to wrap it like a sleeping bag around a body.

What would have been different with more or less?
There’s no mystery in an undignified twilight. No matter—
old enough to know the difference between what was
& what could be. Divested from traffic & weather & news & talk.
Waking unclothed, knowing what is or isn't there & never asking why.



What’s the word for the surprised unrecognition when
you meet someone with a mask & then later see
their whole face for the first time?
                                                     Well, there should be a word
for it. There’s a first time in everything. Or a word for when
you publicly say someone is dead & come to find out
you’re mistaken. Or when you first meet someone
& stumble through an awkward hello because they
have no right hand to shake.
                                                       Why’s there so much
embarrassment for simple things? & so much—so often—
that we can’t agree on a word or two?  Or
how about one for the giggle tantrum of noise—
made audible only with special instruments—
when you tickle a rat?  Or when one sees someone
watching someone else eat a banana
on a park bench?—
                                                         None? Not even still?
Can’t believe we haven’t named it yet. Not a scrap or syllable,
not a sound or sense of anything for these observances?
Can someone please speak up & point their finger
at such things & waste days naming these
strange animals before we meet the devil?



You have a dress made of tongues.
Such a dress is lucky to have you.

Each stitched phrase a cinch tighter
than what came before, a pucker then a grin.

I cherish your delight watching you shed it,
though I know I’m not the cause.

All the work is done, & I know not what
I do. I could go on looking for the living

among the dead, but I prefer it here—
slight hip, sprained jaw, & your sly

lying down in the wilderness to cry out,
heralding our near-end in the hills.



Today, celebrate the ones you love
& the ones you will eventually grow to love.
Which ones & how many need to hear from you today?

Be delighted to express the intoxications
of shared years. Please, ignore the shame
repressing your elation. Say thank you
for what they’ve done: the late night call
to AAA, the five spot for a hot dog, the cups
of coffee & scones. What about the park
& the rainy day walk? The hankie offered
in the cinema’s teary darkness?

Don’t you think that they think
of these flourishes too? This is the wide, unbridled
horizon of appreciation, the compass of affection:
today is the day to let them know a lovely thing,
those beautiful bastards. There’s nothing
to say but what you’ve let alone too long.