Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Swallowtail Summer

I captured the most elusive trace of summer
when it came fluttering on black and yellow wings
through the tangled underbrush of sleep. Before
the sweating, waking to the all-night hum
of window fans, before the ripening blackberries
and scorched dead grass, there were swallowtails

whose arabesques of flight wrought tales
of heat, tilting springtime dreams toward summer.
You texted me “It’s spring” on your BlackBerry
but I was done with migration, wings
folded for the season. Unlike a hummingbird
who flies backward as fast as forward,

I would not go back to spring, forward
again. Two shakes of a puppy dog’s tail
and it’ll be fall, rain singing and humming
in the gutters all night. No drop of summer
to waste with my head under my wing:
sleep can wait until this season is buried.

And under the tangled canes, the berries
stayed hard and evil green. Terrible forage,
fit food only for fools and wingnuts.
Unripe proceeding directly to stale—
spring leapfrogging to fall over summer—
clocks running backward with a hum

as menacing as snake-rattles. Inhuman
to watch, this fast season’s self-burial:
dear departed or never-come summer!
I should have waited for you, waited for
spring’s more measured pace, retailing
its delights under slow-spread wings.

I watched the rocking of an empty swing
as everyone left the park. I hummed
sad songs and told lost-hope tales,
searched withered shrubs for the last berries.
The sun’s banners had gone on before
me. Six stanzas outlasted summer.

Buried in Time’s tailbacks
I swing, miss, at curve-ball summer
for all the world like a mere human.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

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