Poems by Cal Freeman

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Heard Among the Windbreak

by Cal Freeman

From Canary Spring 2015

Cal lives and writes in Dearborn, Michigan, in the Rouge River watershed.

To bow with snow and mercury,
to stagger on shallow roots, to green
the needles on these arms and shed them,
to stand between the cold and you.
This is crop milk in a wren’s throat
with no young to feed, grass blades
and garbage gummed with spit.
In the shadow of a derrick,
this is bitterness and home.
Strung with multi-colored flags,
spruces surround the backflow ditches
where the heron drink and sicken.
Skin the saffron color of the sand,
wrinkled like the paper sack
that holds the bottle, to be an old man rolling
Beech Nut over a blue tongue (the tongue,
that bellwether of splendor and disease),
listening to the branches sigh
and the meters on the jutting pipes tick,
spine curved like a taproot, smell of sick
river in the burdock whose root tincture
is said to cleanse us of abuse. When this
was a park, children with dirt-smudged faces
would watch from the trestle bridge
as carp fought over the popcorn
and breadcrumbs sprinkled in brown water.
Now halogen light obscures dim
parabolas of stars whose names
I never knew, and razor wire glints.
To stand up while the chemicals roil
and the bedrock fractures,
to feel that and not fall, to be a soul
full of mourning doves and shudder
with startled wings as they rise.

How to Fell a Tree of Heaven

by Cal Freeman

From Canary Summer 2015

Call it a colony of carpenter
ants, spent circuitry

of lenticel and root,
volunteer tree, sucker,

this, a tree of heaven;
cavities in rotten wood,

ailanthus altissima, Rhus
succedanea, stinking

sumac, ghetto
weed, naming

one requisite for destruction.
Press an ear to the trunk,

hear it buzz
with a thousand mandibles

Watch the chainsaw follow
pheromones into the tender

spots, break into dust
at the incision.

In Seven Erstwhile Cities

by Cal Freeman

From Canary Fall 2015

The dead have not been delivered
        their canes or walking shoes.

In two outfaced towers,
         two watchers see the pulses
of bipeds in infrared
         and see the lit ends of

       their cigarettes with naked eyes.

In three dozen empty houses,
        past scenes of trauma play
                           upon the walls

as if those walls were screens.

                In Franco’s Spain
the spirit of the dead keeps

and it is clear to anyone
who listens

that the hillside stone
can speak.

In Laos, in the Plain
of Jars, some              shattered
     monuments persist

and the giants sleeping
deep within their lidless

                casements savor the lack

of footsteps and the gradual
          of unexploded ordnance.

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