Jane Andrews: Four Poems
Sometime in the night
the dog snuck in,
trespassing where she is
not allowed. Now she lifts
her head—jingling tags like tiny bells.
in the early July light
and the ceiling fan
above our bed
beats its steady wings.
You are hummocked,
sleeping under flower-twined
cotton, while morning scent drifts in the window
crisp and white
as fresh paper.
My coffee and the leash are waiting.
Outside I take a sip
and hesitate. But my black dog pulls me forward
to do her business, break the crust
of morning, and leave the first mark on the day.
Remember when you were almost too big to carry?
We took “pajama walks,” the captured lightning bugs in your fists escaping
in constellations, floating beyond your vision
before you could name them. One June day a promised eclipse
put us in a party spirit.
We baked vanilla half-moon cookies that you dipped in chocolate shadow.
Brave girl, every bedtime you sent your Bear of Night Terrors to a time-out in a shadowed
corner—black into black. Mornings, you set it free to carry
on its hibernation under your bed knowing you hadn’t crushed its spirit,
and when the sun went down, it would escape
again, growling large with danger. Still, I wanted you to trust the night and know the brief eclipse
of sleep can light another kind of vision.
For the event we drove to a field where frogs sang in evening mist and we waited for our vision
to adjust. A great dark beast flapping four arms slid, lurched, and led us over spongy grass, one shadow created by our two, plus the blanket, thermos of milk and tub of cookies we brought for the eclipse.
You hunted peepers by the sound, grabbed more than you could carry,
running to the blanket to show me, but they escaped—
plipping safely in an unseen pond. So, you jumped and wagged your butt in the tadpole spirit.
The moon looks like a button, I said. No, a pancake, you shouted, getting in the spirit.
A powder puff! A Frisbee! A bagel with cream cheese! A nickel! We carried
on like that, shrieking and laughing until our vision
blurred. I’m eating the moon, you crowed, chomping a cookie, swallowing the semi-sweet shadow.
Not a crumb of moon rock, even of the bright side, escaped.
Our galaxy of moons was swiftly eclipsed.
I poured us milk. Moon juice, you toasted, clinking our cups, so some escaped
and leapt from cup to cup like a frog. Then it was almost time for our eclipse.
The earth rolled in front of the sun; we rolled with it, unfolding our own shadow
like another blanket across the moon. It disappeared as if we, powerful, magical we, spirited
it away. Just because we could. Without the bright moon, red, blue, yellow stars danced into vision.
But you yawned at their glory, leaning against me, heavy, but still small enough to carry.
Afraid of your might, the Bear went over the mountain, growing small in your vision. Somewhere a spirited red and white cow escaped, jumped high, her hooves kicking our blanket of eclipse off the moon. I carried you to the car, to bed—your breath still warm and sweet with the taste of shadows.
Rain Check, May 21, 2011
—for my father
We had a beautiful day for it, too.
If the world has to end,
it might as well be
on a warm Spring Saturday.
Vicki and Mark and Nick and I
dragged chairs into the front yard
and started drinking
frozen margaritas in the shade,
because the Rapture wasn’t til six pm,
and the dead in Christ would rise first,
like helium balloons. Only fair—you’ve been
buried for decades, dressed in your party clothes.
I wanted to join you in the air, Daddy, you,
who loved the earth so much, but I knew
I’d be left behind. Again. Hurrying
to catch you up.
It was the way you learned
Sometimes your father or your older cousin
decided it was time.
Sometimes your parents turned you over
to a blond crew cut man at the YMCA
in red trunks and a whistle
who looked like GI Joe.
of Vitruvian proportions
would teach you
Like any prisoner, you strip
and look without looking
at others like yourself,
shrunken, shivering in single file.
The room is slick,
It smells like musk and Clorox.
The man’s voice
smacks the tiles
ricochet off the water.
You know the blue transparency
he insists will lift you up
is as untrustworthy as the fugitive light
that squirms and slides over everything.
The man sweeps his arms
out. And in again,
over his bowed head.
You climb the ladder,
walk on the narrow springs
The whistle screams.
at your lack of reflection below.
If you are not seen there,
are you here?
From this great height
your head will strike
the cement bottom
like a pumpkin on pavement.
The man’s feet
slap water from the board
He yanks you in the air.
Aims you like a missile
and hurls you
in free fall.
From fifteen feet under
you hear his panicked order
to surface, and find his white face
hanging above like a moon.
With this new lens
you see his power is a shaky mirage,
like his comical head
viewed through chlorine.
Finally, giving in
to the blue, you are lifted up.
The air burns
and everything has a halo.