Brandon Shimoda: Two Poems
My father, in need | Until a friend calls drunk
My father, in need
It has come time for the large oak tree
in the backyard to be felled,
and it has landed on me to be the one to fell it.
My father is on the phone, lining a smile
across the smoothness of his face.
This is his call; it's a woman on the other end.
His body has that way of furnishing a room
with a laziness that draws perilously close
to being labor,
with success in mind, sloping down the lawn
to forgetfulness; the oak tree is my date;
schedule it fairly and follow through
with affection. The chainsaw is oiled;
I pull the cord, the engine shakes the belly, first,
and then the creatures in the woods,
odd animals at the ready. The blade cuts into
the scales of the tree; it is marriage that marks us all,
is the lesson, and mast: acorns and gall
pigmented on the ground. "Put on your tuxedo son,"
and other words not likely to be heard above the bite
of the saw, or elsewhere.
The oak tree is horribly disfigured
with uneven cuts; yes, you're left alone with this one.
"Do you find it interesting?" is a question repeated
on the yard of these advancing years,
without referent, as if 'it' was the entire world.
Well yes, interesting, at the very least,
as the oak tree falls
and knocks out what seems to be
all of the remaining trees on the property.
Until a friend calls drunk
An old woman is throwing up
in the yard outside my window,
dragging a limb of paper birch
through the compost,
smoothing it over. Removing
her wool cap to pull the hair loose
from her scalp and dropping
the sutures into the leaves.
She's not sick, my first thought,
roiled through the mesh of contempt,
she's faking it. A festoon of black birds
smirks, then flaps away above her head.
Many things, until the point
at which someone pushes them
in front of my face, will remain
untarnished in my ignorance.
She might be somebody's grand-
mother; mother; mothering daughter.
I slide that lens
across her bilious hunch and see
what, maybe, I would see in my own:
the plaintive delicacy of a mother:
at, first, the desert, and then
late in life, the ocean.
What must she have swallowed
to be pressed forth in this way?
The lack of shade, the profundity of salt,
and the brimming calm of the endurance
combined. From which of those houses
has she come? A wrack line of gut
and craw, bodied endlessly
in rows and rows, over and sideways.
Maybe that one, in a chair,
tucking the afghan under her heels
and pulling it tight to her toes.
The sound of the wind in the chimney,
and the slow turn of her neck
to see what the sound might be.
As it is, issuing
from debilitated flesh;
I should probably go out to her
with a glass of water. The old and the very young
need to be hydrated, constantly.
There is a drought;
my friend calls me on the phone;
her questions are persistent,
she is drunk,
our conversation belays my prior notion.
What the fuck? she says, with a listing
incredulity, as if I were bedding the creatures
of the taiga, moaning. Tailed with a sigh
to outline the irrelevance of my worries
and the tact with which I carry them.
I think twice, I think three times,
I spend the evening in thought,
the glass of water left untouched on the counter.
Brandon Shimoda's writing has appeared or will appear soon in Barrow Street, Word for/Word, Spinning Jenny, Unpleasant Event Schedule, and elsewhere, as well as in the collaborative web journal, Peek Thru The Pines, with artist/writer Phil Cordelli. A former resident of Albany, New York and Asheville, North Carolina, he currently resides in Montana.