Charles Rafferty ~ Five Poems

Negative Capability

I don’t actu­al­ly want to fig­ure out pho­tons. We have named the thing that was con­fus­ing us, and that can be enough. Light is both par­ti­cle and wave; love is both glo­ry and pain. Keats could have been a physi­cist — he had the right tem­pera­ment. He sang most clear­ly when cough­ing on his blood.


Nothing Goes Bad Here Because We Use It Up So Quickly

Not many things have trav­eled with me this far — a stamp col­lec­tion, a scar. I recent­ly saw a cur­rent pho­to­graph of my child­hood home. The shrub­bery was all dif­fer­ent, and it took a long time to be cer­tain. My broth­er nev­er made it out of his for­ties, and yet I have this dried-out starfish in the book­case. I can’t remem­ber who gave it to me, but if I returned it to the sea, I’m sure it would be ruined. Besides, some new clut­ter would take its place. The pruned aza­lea starts fill­ing in the gaps as soon as the clip­pers are laid aside.


Wrong Exit

The elk stood there with a head full of drift­wood, tast­ing the grass beside the signs for food and lodg­ing. I’ll admit it — the after­noon light encour­aged me to linger; twice his body rip­pled to shake away the flies. I had an appoint­ment though. The estate plan­ner was wait­ing for me with her sil­ver pen, her dish of wrap­per­less can­dies I kept refus­ing. What can I say? She had a white noise machine in the wait­ing room. She believed in the pow­er of secrets. Years lat­er, I would chas­tise myself for not apprais­ing him — just a glance in the rearview as I sped into the merge. I thought he was the first of many, that the after­life of mon­ey had some­thing to do with me.


Driving Our Daughters to College

I point to the snow geese milling in the corn­fields along the Jersey Turnpike. I’m not Paul Simon, so I wouldn’t think to put them into a song. But some­body might, some­body whose tongue was will­ing. It occurs to me that I can­not hear their honk­ing as I speed past them. It occurs to me that no one for­gets how to whis­tle. Regardless, our daugh­ters don’t both­er to look up from their phones, and I have no idea where they’re head­ed. In the rearview mir­ror, already they have tak­en flight.


On the Back Patio With Bach and Whiskey While Waiting for the Perseids

I used to look up into the night sky and wish for more stars. Such audac­i­ty — the dis­sat­is­fac­tion with infin­i­ty, the cer­tain­ty I could have done better.


Charles Rafferty has pub­lished 15 col­lec­tions of poet­ry — most recent­ly A Cluster of Noisy Planets (BOA Editions, 2021). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer’s Almanac With Garrison Keillor, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. His sec­ond col­lec­tion of sto­ries is Somebody Who Knows Somebody (Gold Wake Press, 2021). His sto­ries have appeared in The Southern Review, Milk Candy Review, Juked, Okay Donkey, and New World Writing. His first nov­el is Moscodelphia (Woodhall Press, 2021). Rafferty has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Currently, he co-directs the MFA pro­gram at Albertus Magnus College and teach­es at the Westport Writers’ Workshop.