SPRING AT 40
Wake this morning and you remember
how love comes back like seasons.
Now, blood and life pulse
through you knowing where to turn
and beside you lies the woman you still need
more than you ever feared. She sleeps
while you worry about things like blood,
how it stops one day like a train
out of track, potent, but no place left
to go and you want to nudge her,
and talk about your kids
who sit tranced before cartoons where the fallen
rise to music but you let her sleep
and go on sighing in some dream
she won’t remember past toothpaste
just as you forgot why
you’re sitting up so anxious about everything
when spring breathes in your window,
and you swear the breeze whistles
like your best friend when you were ten
who’d wait on your porch with an oiled glove,
a brand new ball, and all the time in the world.
SOMETHING I COULD TELL YOU ABOUT LOVE
The soft smack of pitches from my father
who’s never cared for baseball, and never asks
about my Yankees. He doesn’t want a glove,
just lets my hardball disappear into his hands
already sore from steering his truck without AC
or radio through the decay of Newark and Elizabeth.
My father, whose shirt’s glued with sweat,
knows drums and crates must be loaded tonight
but still he stands and throws to me across the hood
of his ’53 Ford sagging with freight he’ll have to carry
tomorrow into hardware stores and dentists’ offices.
Tonight I pound the secondhand glove he bought me
and watch his face grow dim in the dark of our yard,
then the white ball from his hands into the August heat.
I, playing catch with my father, who has never liked baseball,
who nods when I ask for five minutes more.
AT JAYNE MANSFIELD’S GRAVE
I have come to her heart-shaped tombstone
like one who meets an old love and hopes
his face can mask the blush of memory
for I was twelve when I first saw her
in the center of the Playboy I found
in a box car. One peek was what I needed
to stash it in my coat and run home hard
pressed to keep my cheeks from boiling
at the pleasure that would be mine
in the must of our cellar where I knelt
with a candle to worship her breasts
so huge and pink in the trembling flame.
That year I’d leave my homework to sneak
downstairs where she lay ready
to unfold the lessons of her flesh,
raw and stark upon the pages I studied
like an explorer until I would ache
to calm the need rising inside me.
And her eyes never condemned the rite
that climaxed with my frenzied breath
splattering wax into the darkness.
She was the first to give herself,
the one who soothed me
when touch was what I lived without,
when sex was a secret I told no one
and love was still a stranger
waiting to undress in my life.
So tonight I kneel again before her,
grateful for the gift of first passion,
the power that’s led me to living women
who love to make love in candlelight,
whose lips are hot against my chest,
who keep my heart from turning to stone.
THIS YEAR’S MAY
Why surprise at the white-
petaled branches nodding
me up the driveway,
scenting each breath
into the house
where my sons greet me
in Little League blue
and my wife waits grinning
in the open-windowed kitchen
savored with pot roast and roses?
What crust of middle age dulled me
to how good supper feels
with curtains flapping
and all of us talking
as if we just woke up from winter?
Tonight I can’t sit for TV news.
I need to be out on creaky bleachers
and cheer my boys as my wife
pours me decaf from a thermos.
This May I want nothing more
than the sun to stay longer
and light this game we love.
So let the others stare
as I giggle like a goon
when my wife tickles my belly.
Tonight I don’t care.
I just want my jeans against hers
as we watch our numbered sons,
tiny in the outfield,
dash through twilight
as if no fence could stop them.
THE MOMENT BEFORE MY MOTHER DIED
Her eyes brightened, as if she’d just heard “Stardust.”
I reached for her hand, a reflex wish
she could still help me, when screens went blank
on machines beside her. Then, the one note beep
and I shut my eyes. Beyond curtains, nurses spoke
of later, how they hoped they could leave on time.
It was Friday, some of them felt like dancing.
Our old car may not start tomorrow.
Out in the driveway its paint grays
with ice and I wonder what life is left
in that battery clamped in cold. Somewhere
else a dog is barking, his breath fading
in steam and I hope a porch light
comes on for him soon. Tonight
I want loneliness for no one. I wish
for this world what I feel
when, beneath your flannel,
my hands love all that is.
Our wood stove, red-eyed,
black iron rattling, battles December
to keep breathing heat
into our home. I hear logs
crumbling and need you closer.
I want that song we love on the radio
to keep going, one more refrain
and then one more. I want our digital time
to slow dance in darkness
as we lie beneath the quilt
my mother stitched night after night,
her arthritic fingers straining
to make us warm beyond her life.
I think of her buried in her first winter
and believe my father holds her
through some higher nighttime,
blessed as your breath on my chest.
The wood stove wheezes. I close my eyes
and love your life and love my life
All night long what we need
will be turning to ashes.
These poems are from Edwin Romond’s Home Fire, which will be available next January from Belle Mead Press, 306 Dutchtown Road, Belle Mead, NJ 08502 . “At Jayne Mansfield’s Grave” previously appeared in Ransom.