Thursday, August 9, 2012

Non Scuppernong by Jeff Phallus

            We did not meet under the willowmoss in Louisiana
                         near the muscadine
      spreading over the stone staircase,
            nor did we hear across the mudwind
     mournful horns for the dead being taken to Lafayette and laid amongst stone angels.
         Our shirts did not stick close as the sun declined past the bayou
     and set the frogs and owls and bats into the nightpath
        which we walked barefoot
          over red earthtracks muddying our soles—

                                    The wet leaves on the floor of the blueberry glade in Maine
            were not packed by our feet side by side
                 in the parcel shade and sun that fell over the still reflecting pool
          with its green shell of scum tasted in the air.

            In the clipped gardens of Versailles
     we shared no brie on a red striped blanket with the papillons
            lighting, yellowwingéd on wineglasses cusped in the hand without bread,
   pommes might have fallen, striking our heads,
       but no thoughts of us, as we ate before sunset
   and at night walked through the city, past fishsmells and melted icewater
             rilling between the broken stones of the market place, could
   ever come to us as a law or principle as heavy as Newton’s.

            Among the hilly north places, down the unfurled Piedmont in Georgia
     you sat upon the trees gently swayed in chestnut wind,
               flinging acorns, walnuts, almonds at neighbors and me.
     The lilac smell and burning charcoal mingling amongst our childhood’s
         shared but unshared garden
               crowded moonlit gazebos
      with tender musk of blackened marshmallows.
           Your mother with the auburn hair and kneelong shorts
      went to her garden and, in a Mason jar,
                   gave us scuppernong jelly,
         which I ate,
          not knowing you,
       seeing you down Walnut drive,
             legs too long for your Little Tykes tricycle,
    your hair scraping the oilstained asphalt.

            At the barbecues, the parties, the community functions,
               during classes, church, times with mutual friends,
             no words, only glances,
                we stayed familiar but distant.
It would have been just as devastating if you lived in France or were never conceived in Spain.
If only everything familiar we deemed worth more than a glance,
         then perhaps the shadows grasping the whitewood, semiporched houses with
  plastic reindeer and red-collared Dalmatians,
    would have been just as exotic as the car that cranks sputtering
  in the middle of the night and drives down sleepy Walnut,
      a dog yelping, as the phone tower blinks red.

A lonely chair,
    smelling of stale biscuits and fried eggs,
      sits amidst dust and clover under a café’s backdoor tin awning.

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