IN PRAISE OF YELLOW
In sunlight through grains of sand and shell, or any
small joy, the coherence of egg yolk, the vagueness
of air, the bells that ring only at midday, tawny light
on the hillside, a taxicab idling at night in the rain,
moonlight in a puddle, pee in the snow, headlights,
double lines propelling your flight in a smoldering rage,
turmeric and cumin, what’s sallow and fearful, a secret
the topaz tells, the thread that draws forth your soul, as
played in C major on a flute, scent of saffron, and how he
buttered his corn, how she cupped the flames, the palomino’s
crest, the boy’s amber hair, what’s burning or glowing, yes,
and the moldering, the golden as well, the sulfurs from hell,
from nowhere a yell of surprise, bright splash of lemon
on your tongue, that yellow room you can’t step foot in
again, its curtains and walls, in memory where you dwell,
out the window, a field of mustard, the throat of a finch.
I’m turning into my father again, this time
because of a bunny, a wabbit, as named
by Porky Pig years ago on the small
black-and-white TV that you’d need
to crawl up close to capture grainy images
and to hear the squeals, grunts, and madcap
escapades of a world both enclosed and beyond.
And so Poppy in late life fed feral rabbits,
snapping carrots in the late light,
explaining his life to them, their lives to them
as they ate and listened, fleeing the hawk,
the owl, the fox.
So damn, here I am talking to a feral rabbit
on the front lawn of these awful rental digs
in a strange part of a strange town, and
I usually say to him:
You know damn well I’m a renter here,
that I don’t care about this ugly garden,
so when you visit, please, savor that plant,
devour those leaves, for you are
my treasured guest, and by being,
in your inimitable self, ears tuned to a world
I barely imagine, my daily respite
from the aloneness, from whatever’s to come.
WHAT SHARPENS THE TEETH
She’s gotta get out and drive full force,
slamming the brakes, skewed and messy
to the disabled spot at the used stuff store,
while I’m nattering, Ma, where’s your stupid
placard. She lurches, hobbles—white mane
of hair aflame in sunlight—and roars, so you
limp, Goddamn it, you’re really good at it.
The dogwoods unleash their riot of white,
the whole sky washed clean, no birds, no traffic,
a short, full silence. She had four months
to live. Happy she was—owned her day, her life,
called forth by those unknown treasures.
But her secrets? Damn, those were the real
treasures, so many, and she took them with her.
ROUNDING THE FAR TURN
She’s waddling forthrightly to the car,
he’s gripping her elbow, pretending
authority, as they walk beneath
the pink rose arbor, two dogs, one cat trailing
as she sallies forth to produce my brother,
though what mattered was that first TV,
in black and white, grainy image next day
of the great gray ghost, Native Dancer,
the favorite, nipped at the wire
by long shot Dark Star—Kentucky Derby,
May 2, 1953—and then the also-rans—
Straight Face, Social Outcast, Money Broker,
Ace Destroyer. If I consider my brother,
my family, the whole frigging lot of us,
what a bunch of dark stars, gray ghosts,
and, especially, the also-rans we’ve been.
What did we know then—clock ticking,
spilled salt, and that one faucet—
bitterly, bitterly. The heart stammering
something soft—little felt hammers
over taut strings. Then it was quiet,
remember, even the trees were quiet.
Jar of darkness outside tipped over,
out spilled the moon, whose intricate
mythology we no longer needed.
Assuming that happiness exists
between rapture and exactitude,
remember to watch for it.
Church bells rang and white pigeons
in a clamor wheeled through the ivy—
no catastrophe—whole city full of life,
so much life, the bright second blazing.
In Praise of Yellow—Pirene’s Fountain; Eclipse
What Sharpens the Teeth–Confrontation
Rounding the Far Turn—Jelly Bucket
January Dazzle—Silk Road Review
Helen Wickes is the author of four books of poetry: In Search of Landscape, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2007; Moon over Zabriskie and Dowser’s Apprentice, both from Glass Lyre Press, 2014; World as You Left It, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2015. All six poems published in this article are from an unpublished manuscript titled “Transit of Mercury”. She grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, has lived in Oakland, California for many years, and used to work as a psychotherapist. She is a member of Sixteen Rivers Press, which has recently released the anthology America, I Call Your Name:
Cover art Courtesy of Looney Tunes website.