It doesn't quite work,
the way the stairway dominates
and cuts the bottom floor down
to an awkward space of little scope.
It tries for light, to maximize the view
with ornate decks and nautical glass,
yet the owner, a rich man,
flood-lights the lawn in fear,
frets about the zoning laws,
and when the children climb
his alluring front yard wall
he quickly shouts them off.
Ring once, a ghost will answer.
I see it all: stacks of tires, oil drums,
bumper embedded in the grass,
gas pumps locked at forties prices,
and the life I lived through
decades as reserves dropped,
and the war evacuated homes.
It goes on, even as rafters molder
onto tables made of cable spool,
with ring on ring of whiskey glass,
everything eaten away by termites
and replaced by the vigorous weeds,
while the elm takes seed inside
the old garage, unfurls its black
limbs exploding through the doors.
The elder forest reclaims its own
territory of green magic. Inside
each trunk find embedded bones:
here, this line, the one where
fourth of July burned out
the second pump, and fire
rose a fountain in the street.
I cruise by now in a swift wind,
the slow motion rise and fall
of homes that could never last,
memory trucks that haul it all away,
shadows that won't evaporate,
roots embedded in the deep
dream places seem to hold
indelible as we drive on.
What father had I to turn to?
rather, a face behind cigarette smoke—
a maker of easels who left
a basement full of sawdust fine as ash—
a pair of headlights backing down the driveway—
the memory of another self I tried to act out
but failed as the mask fell free—
slowly, a distant echo of a time,
like a buoy bell in the night—
and finally a ship I was never meant
to board, pulling out of sight.
Douglas Cole has had work in The Connecticut River Review, Louisiana Literature, Cumberland Poetry Review, and Midwest Quarterly. He has work available online as well in The Adirondack Review, Salt River Review, Cortland Review, and Underground Voices. He won the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry for a selection of work called, “The Open Ward.” He currently lives in Seattle, Washington and teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College, where he is also the advisor for the literary journal, Corridors.