Five Prose Poems
When the leaves run across the driveway, their scuttering becomes the contents of my latest memorandum. I ought to explain that in this matter I am licensed to act for the committee of ghosts who inhabit the farmhouse on the hill. None of us are elected, everyone volunteers: the spirit that possesses the rat snake basking on the porch, the kindly old man, intangible, who lives in the basement, down among the bricks of the original foundation. He might be the father, or the husband, of the woman who sometimes sits invisibly at the foot of your bed, but he’s reticent enough not to say. We often convene in the orchard, after midnight. The thud as early apples drop; that is one statement. The cough of a white-tailed deer is an argument, while the quickly silenced shriek of a rabbit, as it feels itself lifted in the talons of the owl, I believe that was the minutes of our last meeting.
Much the Same Countenance
One day I heard that the piano tuner had died—walking pneumonia complicated by decades of heavy smoking, although the piano tuner was still a young man. I’d struck up a conversation with him over drinks one night, and might have seen him again, except that he was coming to the end of his schooling, and was soon moving back to the city of his birth, unless, as he said, someone gave him a reason to stay, like love, he said, or money. But I was broke, and also just beginning to fall in love with someone else, and the piano tuner did not press his case. Via email he told me that he learned his tools, he practiced his tuning, and he practiced his pieces. I never heard him play. After he died, I tried to imagine his slender fingers, his charming stutter, and the expression on his face when he played a favorite and difficult selection, much the same countenance as a person lost in the act of love.
Don’t Mention the Moon
The ink-stained desk at which all his poems had been written resented poetry, it disliked ink, and had no use for wineglass rings on the wood, or the caustic splashes of whiskey. But it was a desk, and so had little to say about poetry or anything else, and lived its wooden life in the hope that someone other than a poet, a premier, for example, or a CEO, would one day sit down and sign a check, or initial an order to invade a country, anything but the love-sick mutterings or impotent phrasings the desk had perforce grown so resigned to house. “Just don’t mention the moon today,” thought the desk. “For once don’t sit here and write about the moon.”
A Dash of Nutmeg
She decided to drink the milk. Even if it rested in a wooden bowl, like some kind of offering that farmers in Cornwall would leave out for the wee folk. Even if the milk had come from a goat. Goat’s milk disturbed her: if you drank milk from a goat, why not milk from a rabbit, say, or a cat? Yes, the Persian had a nice smoky flavor. The Siamese milk goes really well with fish. Dog’s cheese is best with bologna and white bread. Chimp milk is best for raising chimpanzees, or superheros. The milk of human kindness? More common than one might think. She adds a spoonful of honey, a dash of nutmeg, and carries the bowl to her bedside table.
You Thin Belgian Men
Is it even fair to mention the beauty of young men on the train in the city? They’re like trees, or like deer, that slenderness and strength of limb, those eyes: a deer who does not know where it might settle in the forest for its uneasy sleep. Trees in the forest grow, like new antlers on a deer. Young men in a forest should be lithe and swift, like deer. Whitman thought he could lie down with the animals. I imagine him pillowing his Santa Claus head on the flank of a panicked deer. To descend into darkness on the subway train is to reacquaint yourself with desire. Oh hipster boys of Brooklyn, I should like to nap next to you on second-hand cushions. You thin Belgian men just a few years out of art school, you would not run from me, you would loiter, saunter, light one final cigarette before extending your arms and proclaiming them branches. Between the silver tree trunks, a stag snorts, (such a dog-like sound). The stag glances at me, long enough for me to love its sturdy and frail beauty, and then it bounds, becomes a shadow indistinguishable from any other shadow, men and harts and the hunt among the trees.
Robert McDonald’s poetry and prose have appeared in Sentence, Court Green, and Escape Into Life, among many other journals and zines. He lives in Chicago, works in an independent bookstore, and blogs at http://livesofthespiders.blogspot.com.