The Peacock


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.



Cars Burning


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.

Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books. His new collection of poems, The Promised Rain, is in private circulation. He lives in Albany, California.

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Published in the 2011-06-17 issue: View Contents
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