What does he feed on,
this stalking festival,
with a gaze perpetually startled,
and a bearing so assertively free of
nest or boundary that he is either
witless or emperor of all?
Even the canary’s aria
is flat beside his scarlet cry,
and he drags his multicolored
mantle like so much excess of no
use but to steady the progress
of his parade. The trailing margin
of his wealth tatters, sops mud,
scrawls the dust as he
pecks the grassy verge
of the footpath beside
the riffraff sparrow.
How many kernels of
sun and starlight he must have
snapped up in his clueless hunger,
so that in his oblivious career
he can shatter our ennui with his
ripped and ripped up
answer to the sky.
My Father Swims
He ran down into the sea,
and broke through the waves,
reaching out like a man
seizing the glittering
surface and pulling it in,
surf and foam nothing to him
on his way out from the long
beach and all of its humanity.
And there he kept his distance,
under a sky that was as absolute as
the salt air soaking up our voices,
the bludgeoned silence and hiss of arrival
all anyone could hear.
Spray tore into sloppy patterns and vanished,
and along the sodden sand instantaneous
escape holes broke out of the surface
where sand crabs scurried down away from our light.
Because that was how I thought of it—
our day, our silence the voices tried to break through,
our sand under our tongues, our own breakers
climbing like men along the coastline, like men
surprised at their joyful weariness,
staggering back into our love.
Something feels it—the giant land
goes all the way to the summit,
four thousand feet. While the driver
passes time listening to
songs or a recorded book,
the road ahead lifts in
heat no one knows.
The ruptured hose,
the smoke, the sizzling
plastic of the dash.
It’s the climb, unnoticed,
the hot pre-dawn that breaks
us down, brings us
to the desert that was
always there, to the solitude,
the tires bursting softly
in the dawn we always thought was
huge but far away. To this
box of light.
About the Author
Michael Cadnum lives in Albany, California. His thirty-fifth book, the novel Seize the Storm, was published in 2012 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.