Summer 2000, Volume 18.0
David Feela has a MFA in Writing from Vermont College. His poems and essays have appeared in Cincinnati Poetry Review, Passages North, Press, Sport Literate, and Yankee. His manuscript, "Thought Experiments," won the 1998 Southwest Poet's Series Chapbook Search. He is currently teaching writing and literature at Pueblo Community College and co-chairs the English department at MontezumaCortez High School in Cortez.
The Primitive Yawn
The mouth gets forced open
like a rain sodden door
and the soul, they believe, gets pushed
into the street. By they
I mean more primitive people who felt the soul
a tangible part of the human
who regarded souls as such pleasant company,
fearing any sudden exit
from the warm leantos of their bones.
That's why these peoples quickly covered
mouths when the soul came forth,
as if to say, wait,
stay, I'll toss another stick on the fire.
We, however, raise our eyebrows
at their ignorance. By we
I mean more modern people who never put to rest
a belief that the physical world
is just a collection of tricks
waiting to be unveiled, those
who if they conceive of a soul at all
think of it as a shadow
reflected against a whitewashed wall.
We end up covering our asses at work, or
if sneezing, covering our mouths,
impressed when a scientist reports how the spray
travels up to six feet at 100 miles per hour!
We exact astonishment from figures and charts,
are jaded by the dark,
as if the grave was an empty cave,
as if the body was a shell
under which the cosmos shuffles a pea.
A dinosaur nests in my plum tree…well, not exactly nests but rests there while the plums begin their blush from green to purple, one plum at least, one very specific plum near the top where I can't quite reach. And the dinosaur, really, is no dinosaur but just a bird, a robin—Turdus migratorius to be more accurate. Old Turdus wants a piece out of my first plum before I can climb to the rescue. And birds they say are actually distant relatives of dinosaurs, a theory I believe because I've always suspected something very old about the instinct to steal anything, especially such sweet tender as ripening fruit. In this case I am referring to plums, a Prunus variety, but before plums cherries and apricots were torn off the stone, ravaged by dino-birds. Oh, it's not that I wish extinction on this feathered species in the plum tree, though I do wish I could reach those top limbs easily as a Prunus Turdosaur's gigantic tail, thick like an old firehose and a neck as long and extendable as a ladder. Of course, that's not what my plum tree robin looks like but some one hundred and twenty-five million years ago it might have appeared that way and then I'd never have complained, just dragged my single molecule of nucleic acid off to a more promising stagnant pond and waited my turn to become much more than I probably am.
I watch a farmer lead his horse by a halter
from a ridge rising above his barn
while the wind works to tear branches loose
from the trees. He keeps the rope taut,
as if intent on the thought of his pickup
parked in the cottonwood's shade.
How easily the little girl comes into view,
running across the field. Her voice must be out
in front of her, for the farmer stops
to let the girl catch up, resumes his walk
with her hand tethered to his. Daylight lingers.
The bluster makes it impossible to hear
what he's trying to say. It could be a story,
maybe one to calm the horse's nerves,
a sweet apple about how words follow each other
like a carousel in slow motion, a predictable
cadence, clean and green as a bale of hay.
Maybe a promise of oats. He might tell the child
of the night the horse was born, how a spring storm
covered the pasture in snow, how the foal had to be
pulled from her mother, those skinny legs
slippery as wet leather. Stories
drawn out like a cord. He may speak to the horse
of the child's birth in the farmhouse
across the field when summer burned,
the hot squall of blood blossoming from the mother.
How does anyone remember ten fingers uncurling
like tendrils, bones lining up in a mute logic,
memory as transparent as an onion's skin
gathered around the cloven bud, pungent
as the brain. I would come too, if only to hear
the stories, to be led along a field
almost ready for cutting, to smell the barn
in the air and know the darkness contained
by those boards has been hammered in place
for over a hundred years. I'd stay close,
lean into a stall, glance toward the loft
always there like a future hovering above the floor.
Some places invent a language. Even light
has an odor when it splinters old wood
and rust can make a beautiful sunset
in the bottom of an old grain bucket.