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David Roderick


Self-Portrait in 1970

Limbed Pisces, dawn of the Ram,
when my mother’s hips
push me into lamplight and time.

This is where one voice ends
and another begins,
with a child bearing another child,

some low line
of election continuing,
a rabbit’s foot stroked in a pocket.

Little cricket, little salt-boy
straddling two seasons,
making noise in a world

that already speaks so clearly of itself,
my pulse residual,
silence in my mother’s spine.

The sky above the hospital
holds tight to its astrology,
the bowl of a womb scraped out.

Below, standing in the road,
my father doesn’t know I’m born,
his horned son, a lungfish wriggling

into the language species.
It’s a gripper of a night,
so cold his dental fillings ache.

Why won’t he walk and warm himself?
Sober frostbite.  Felon wind.
The road heading off in two directions.

Blue Colonial

I was bored until I began rigging catastrophes: pitfalls,
tree snares, explosions. I dug a hole in the woods,
hoping that something would fall and shatter a leg.

I shot at aerosol cans to burst the forest silence.
Shrapnel tore through ferns. Rodents fled along branches.
And the trees bored me because I'd climbed their gloom

to spy over our subdivision, rowed colonials, each the same
because the mind of a developer planned them that way:
decks too small for barbeque, monotonous shingles and brick.

Our colonial was the only blue one in the neighborhood,
a color I liked, but I wasn't allowed to paint it with my father
when it needed a fresh coat. He didn't trust me to brush

with caution and care, though he did let me watch while
he shot a squirrel with a BB gun one morning, a squirrel
that lived in our eaves. That's when I gave up asking

for chores around our house, my father at work in his mask,
sanding and priming rough spots, creaming a pail of trim.
Instead, I walked back to the woods and filled a hole

with my body, became a collector of hints and atmosphere.
I hunted for incidents, turtles that slipped from the surface,
feral slinks near the fringe. Once I found a pile of tires

in a ditch, but when I dragged out a pair, I couldn't find
a place for them, so I rolled them back to their mulch.
Those tires brimmed with water that only newts like,

and when I saw how the sun blinded their eyes, I stopped
meddling with tires and logs, vernal pools for the sleepers.
This was near Billington Lake, where a girl once plunged

through the ice. She'd been trapped for hours before her body
was pulled from its frozen zone. When her brain thawed,
she told about a vision she had, how everything she touched,

living or dead, spun into a string of light. I wanted to have
such a vision, to feel ice dazzle my eyes, a carboniferous
smell in my nose while I slept with the newts and salamanders.

That hole I'd dug held me still, like the axle of a bike wheel,
a trick that spins backwards. While inside, I was locked
in that girl's eye, her irises crisscrossed with wings.

This is what I meant earlier when I said catastrophe:
some trick art, some careful recording of nighthawk quips.
I still like to visit those woods near the colonial that is

no longer blue. The subdivision changed and is
perpetually changing: living tulips sent into exile,
ivy crawling the chimneys. A pile of junk is a kind of faith:

rotten deadfalls, tires that sink, so I will always go back
to visit the blue colonial and run my fingers over its paint,
knowing I lived inside it once, maybe five coats ago.

I look for depressions in the woods where I dug holes
and climbed trees. I look for bike treads brailled
into the mud, an old thrill sculpting its chapter.

This is a place that keeps me frozen: temporary flowers,
dung-tinged fumes. I walk until I find remnants, shade,
a canopy for sleep. I remember the trees by their shadows.

-from Blue Colonial