Three Poemsby Rhett Iseman Trull
The Last Good Dream
Dusk and the two of us again
on the porch swing, idling down
the day. The low sun burning out
but still with us, its full glow
like the lull between seasons
or the soft pearl of the oyster.
It is the moment when doves
light on dormant phone lines and boys
find love in fish nets and crab cages,
in the salty chorus of the wharf. We
can almost hear them, six blocks east,
the lobstermen bringing in the catch
and their daughters in braids telling secrets,
a cloister of curls and intentions, waiting
for fathers whose bones smell of fish
to carry them home. By habit
our arms touch as we listen to the cadence
of the first evening rain tapping to the west
near the cemetery and the eight-stool pub.
A girl coasts her bike down the street,
bells on her handlebars ringing. It is the hour
before women wash dishes
and men go out, before the gulls flock
toward Captain’s Calabash, the shore’s single light
for miles. And we give
with unthinned hearts, little knowing
how even if banked by the best words
All day the gulls dove, cries unsynchronized,
throats clinching every note as tightly as their bills
pincered quivering fish. The morning wind, spiked
with salt, stung our eyes as the sun slashed its light
across the numb horizon. I guess this is mine now, you said,
by default, drumming your chewed fingernails
with a hollow ruc-a-tuc, ruc-a-tuc on the bumper
of your father’s truck, our reflection skewed in its dents.
And everything from that point on was slow motion:
the rest of the day spreading between us without words,
sunbathers coming and going, building their castles
until the tide slithered in to crush the towers in its grip.
Then the cooler air, clouds wisping thin, the last
of the fishermen reeling in, and the loon on one leg
letting the pink wings of sunset molest her feather by feather.
Alone, under the cold fist of the moon and backed by hazy winks
of distant hotel lights, you slogged in calf-deep, the waves
gutting the ocean floor, sloshing its dregs against
you. From the shore I memorized
each splintered shell, each man-of-war, each muscle
you didn’t flinch. Without ceremony, you slung the urn
out past the breakers, its lid tipping, dark tail of ashes
trailing. As you returned, the chill of the night
trembling through you, the smell of the brine in your hair,
I knew this would be the end for us. Your green eyes were pale,
scaled of their usual laughter. You swung from your loss,
gills straining. I loved you most in that moment, knowing
even as I slipped my arm up the back of your shirt, hooking us
together, that you were about to cut me loose to spare me
the tightening of the line, the bruise of sudden air.
He has learned to love the loneliness of night,
The possible hauntings, faraway sirens, the silver
Of the sky. He used to follow all the advice: hot baths, warm milk,
Soft jazz, no caffeine. He tried sleeping with socks and without,
In silk or cotton sheets. He even took pills, which made him feel
Upon waking, as if he’d slept through a play’s second act.
He would rather let the rare half-hour naps come when they will:
After a midnight plate of celery sticks and peanut butter, perhaps,
Or in the middle of a cricket serenade
Accompanied by dogs barking across their fences.
He’s never tired, but he can’t help feeling left out,
As if he’s the punch line to night’s only joke, as if the dreams
He could be having are piling up like unclaimed luggage.
By four a.m. even his west coast friends are asleep, but he
Turns his clocks to the wall, ritualizes boredom.
He dances in the empty street, swings upside-down from the trees.
He rescued a kitten, named her Lady, likes to watch her sleep
On his windowsill or curled up purring in his popcorn bowl.
He croons Elvis into the handle of his garden spade
While standing on his coffee table, dressed in tails. He juggles,
Stitches, makes categorized alphabetized lists of the movies he’s seen,
Books he’s read, each pet he’s owned from Amadeus to Zephyr.
But mostly he plays solitaire. Decks of cards, stacked in multiples of five,
Rise like towers of miniature cities in the corners of his apartment.
His goal: to collect enough to play with a new deck
Every night for the rest of his life, however many that may be.
He tries to welcome them, to imagine them being dealt out:
New stars turning over beside each fat ace of a moon.