Narrated by Burgess Needle
I. I See True North An afternoon’s nap took my bearings. True north could have been anywhere. Forceps-delivered babies Like me with crushed Hippocampus Rarely know their own locations. Living with the woman from the end Of the paved road oriented me to: A clear, nearby river, land falling Away behind her house, passing trucks kick Up pale dust, a dog named Sherlock loves To eat cat food even cat feces. All these my new directions. Placing a cap on my head gave me authority. Gravitas. Fine. I would find my own way to the egg lady’s House, but that’s when the woman from the end Of the paved road creaked a gate open, holding Dozens of rhubarb stalks, saying You decide. Plain rhubarb pie or rhubarb And strawberry crisp or even rhubarb, Strawberry and custard pie. Your thoughts? My thoughts? My thoughts were as unfocused as magnetic north During heavy sun spot activity. All around, dropped in an exquisitely random pattern Were soil-filled tires sprouting white and red flowers With stems alternating up each stalk following A ratio echoed in the curve of a snail shell. Everything vibrates celestial tunes Caught by river water picked Up by some fine filaments in my ears More than compensating for my loss Of bearing or passage of time And the browning rhubarb/strawberry pie Orients far better than any compass. I see true north reflected in the hazel-green eyes Of the woman from the end of the paved road Who murmurs: There! There! And I know exactly where I am. II. Still Falling This morning’s snow hid everything except the wide-mouth snake of my dream who came at me with galaxies in his mouth and enough cold, dark matter to muffle nuclear fusion. Still, locally, it’s all under heavy whiteness though the kale remains firm, primed for salad with lemons and walnuts. These are some of my day’s thoughts: metaphor and actual. Sometimes the moon is just the moon. Dream snakes are phallic said Siggy; but, what of a cold-blooded reptile whose jaw opens black and wide enough to encompass alpha centauri? Trick will be to mimic our visitor— the one who made kale salad from our garden. In truth, had she not dropped by, we’d be on tomatoes and lettuce alone. In the snake’s mouth we are all stars seemingly close in the past far off in the future. Truth lies beneath snow that’s still falling. III. Stay in the Present At the end of the paved road lives A woman of several lives Who knew me well before Cuba was blockaded And now again With familiar arms and a smile Just as winsome Strange. As in uncanny or puzzling. She now fancies curry And an Iranian bread called barbari. When we caress, my jealousies Drift through the window Are eaten by passing ravens. Later, briefly alone, I look Down at a carpet of bloodroot leaves, and, Because it is mid-summer, the white petals with yellow stamens have fallen away still, The reddish rhizome remains just below— Sweet syrup runs from local trees But bloodroot’s orange sap is poison. The woman at the end of the paved road Reclaims windows, saws rectangles In blank walls welcomes new light As I do my best to welcome her embrace And stay in the present— I do not know why that is easier now Than when my blood was newer A time of full sun Uncompromised lives. I am far happier to be here In many other ways Easing me to see White trillium, day lilies And leaves of ginger rather Than Sanguinaria Canadensis It is called with a sap That leaves a scab on bare skin. She is walking through bluebells now The woman from the end of the paved road, Looking up at me with a rushing river Behind her with a past that has brought Her to this form I love so well Here at the end of the paved road Near the river Easily seen through panes Of a recently installed window Reflecting orange crested irises And my breath—even in July— These early Vermont mornings.
Bio: Burgess Needle was a school librarian in Tucson before retiring and moving to New England. His poetry and fiction has appeared in Connotation Press, Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Boston Literary Magazine, Centrifugal Eye, Iodine, Blue Lake Review, Nutshell (UK) and DeComp among others. Publications include: EVERY CROW IN THE BLUE SKY: Diminuendo Press, 2009; THAI COMIC BOOKS: Big Table Press, 2013; FADED PHOTO BRINGS IT BACK: Kindle, 2014 and SIT and CRY: Two Years In the Land of Smiles, Wren Song Press, 2017. He taught English for two years in northeast Thailand for the Peace Corps and currently lives in Ripton, Vermont with a hazel-eyed woman of great wit, charm and beauty.