Sunday, August 1, 2010

Earl J. Wilcox

Bill Gates and the Poet
for Richard Wilbur on his birthday

In his Frost-country cottage, the poet
and his trusty L. C. Smith typewriter
labor in clear harmony this morning.
The machine does its clacking act
when the writer pounds the keys.
Only one whose finger muscles
are still strong enough to clutch
an axe handle or milk a cow, if need be,
can muster strength to strike with
force worn-down letters like y or z,
and others when pressed into action.
Here there is no angst or desire
for the ease which a chichi computer
keyboard could offer to curtail
the constant pain in the right hand
or the left one, too, for that matter.
Poet and typewriter conspire, create
a new song amid the view from the
open cottage window, where Bill Gates
seems irrelevant, does not intrude.

Hitchhiking In A Minor Key

Bach’s C Minor Fugue fills the car from my stereo.
I adjust the AC, sip from a bottle of flavored water.
Rounding a craggy mountain curve, I spot you,
yellow shirt dangling loosely across your brown arm.
You flip the shirt, a signal you’re hitching. Speeding
too fast to stop, I glimpse your suntanned face, a
smile radiant and sustained as Bach’s fashioned fugue.
After three decades now, I can still hear Dad’s voice:
“Don’t pick up hitchhikers. They’ll rape and kill you.”
In the ‘70s, the news about hitchers was always bad,
gentle hippies taking blame for savage deaths done
by road walkers attacking unwise, unwary drivers.
Bach’s Fugue completes its coda. I drive into the cool,
Appalachian spring morning, wonder if Dad was right.

An Incomplete History of Baseballs

In a plain, unpainted basket---made to hold peaches
or some fruit long ago eaten and forgotten---a batch
of scarred and battered baseballs is piled up. Our brood
has collected the balls over the years, tossed them into
drawers, under beds, in closets. One flew on a line drive
toward my wife. The date on that ball helps us recall
how fast balls fly, aimlessly choosing who they might hit.
Sometimes I toss a ball in the air, run a thumb over its
rough ridges, imagine who threw it. Can’t tell which balls
Granddad held in his hands near the end of his 90 years,
50 spent as a small town leftie who tried out for the Detroit
Tigers in the ‘30s. Baseballs tell us nothing of their history;
won’t say which ones my son and I pitched before he left
early for the outfield near the corn patch, like a player in
Fields of Dreams. But no matter if baseballs don't talk.
They tell stories as a team, fill an unpainted basket.

Southern Sunday
for Elizabeth

It was the spring after you had been to China,
where you first ate eel, snake, dog, and hundred-
year old eggs. Snapped on a Sunday after a lunch
of quiche or the other family favorite, chicken,
the picture blossoms with a background of azaleas
festooned against a latticed wooden fence our
neighbors built to ward off the likes of us who play
Beatles, Bono, or Bach at all hours, laugh
with the heartiest, look happy in photographs.
In the picture, our sons and I wear tee shirts you
bought in Hong Kong or was it Beijing where
you dashed with friends to a KFC for wings and
soggy veggies you would never touch at home
because you had lost weight from not eating food
served in a dingy Outer Mongolian hut or on the
trains from the large cities to the tiny hovels with
TV sets, where gaunt Chinese exist in places guide-
books fail to mention. Southern men, we look overfed.
The two boys squat behind me, like a pair of baseball
catchers waiting for the pitch---perhaps a screwball
or a knuckler nobody can catch much less hit. We
all look much younger than I can see in my mind’s
eye now: robust, smiling, happy faces caught in a
spring snapshot brimming with sass which you had
sense enough to notice. Bright red, Chinese logos on
our tee shirts date the picture which remains timeless.

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