Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Word for Home (Present and Past)

Bright sky torn across the top;
crow calls where the damaged cloud
picks apart the tufts of soiled floss
and runs a ragged furrow through the trees.

He carries in an inside pocket (quilted plaid)
surgical instruments in a neat row, polished
and sweet, like the needle teeth of kittens.
He always says that opening the body
is something best done quick or not at all.

The stutter of the cloud fades into purple
where the bay goes silent and the gulls veer
left and right, leaving the straight ahead
to eyes without the sense to pull away.

They ask him if he misses home
and he just shrugs. I don't remember,
he says, how to say the word
in my own tongue.



Bright sky torn across the top;
a crow called where the damaged cloud
picked apart the tufts of soiled floss
and ran a ragged furrow through the trees.

He carried a in an inside pocket (quilted plaid)
surgical instruments in a neat row, polished
and sweet, like the needle teeth of kittens.
He always said that opening the body
was something best done quick or not at all.

The stutter of the cloud wore into purple
where the bay went silent and the gulls veered
left and right, leaving the straight ahead
to eyes without the sense to pull away.

They asked him if he missed his home
and he just shrugged. I don't remember,
he said, how to say the word
in my own tongue.



Now, the most interesting part of this exercise was discovering that if I was going to put the crow call into the simple past, I could not leave her without an article. It had to be “a crow.” Whereas in the abstract present (what's the technical term for that?), I was perfectly happy with “crow,” unarticled. I'm still waiting for this man to tell me more about himself: I rather think he fled Poland after the 1830 uprising and spent twenty years practicing medicine in the Rheinland before moving on to San Francisco in the 1850's, where he may or may not have drunk whiskey with a young, redheaded, rather hysterical ex-military young man (who was trying to become a banker & realtor and failing), name of William Tecumseh Sherman.

4 comments:

Dale said...

Hmm, both of these actually make the crow the subject of the second stanza, don't they? Hadn't thought of that. Clever birds, but ones that are qualified surgeons are rare.

NT said...

I'd be curious to see a version that combines the tenses. :)

marlyat2 said...

The gist of that was very clear--the fleeing to the states, the former occupation that still in some way defines who he is. I thought it was a bit more recent because he does not practice any more. So I thought that was because he could not...

Dale said...

NT, scroll down! :-)