Spring 2016, Volume 20

Poetry by Frank X. Gaspar


The wind was at my back, the low sun too, and the long shadows
of afternoon ran before me—balloon tires humming
over the college walks and then upon the black asphalt of the streets
and boulevards, with the crows looking down from the high weather
of the sweet gums and magnolias and jacarandas. I wore a black helmet
and sunglasses, the day running off behind me, behind me too, the Spanish
buildings, their clay tiles, the big dome of the observatory and its old
Schmidt-Cassegrain that you can see the moons of Jupiter through,
hazy and pulsing above the smog  and light-scatter whenever you’re
willing to climb up there in the dark. You can be both right and wrong
most of the time, joy gliding over sorrow like those morning fogs that
prowl their way around the neighborhood, hip high, sweetening the fruit,
bathing the wilderness of the lawns and marigolds.  It’s almost like you are
and then you aren’t in the same instant, something in you crying love, love,
but then you look around, and where are you?  You can cry until you’re blind
from it, it doesn’t matter, and that’s when the crows warm up to you.  You
understand them, they understand you, and they’re calling hey, hey, because
they’d like the day to hold something for them, some bone and gristle maybe,
some blood and hair smudged across their long platter that is Clark Avenue,
and if you’re me, you’re just spinning along on that old dinged-up bike,
yelling hey, hey, right back at them, but only inside your head so you don’t
disturb any of the good citizens with your little puckers of madness.  And
then what’s left except to look around for all the justice and virtue crouching
behind the iron gates and the rolling hedges, and the shine of the neighborhood’s
Chevrolets and Hondas, all the dahlias and azaleas and yellow lilies—they
don’t last long, it’s all part of the deal—and neither do the upturned skateboards
or the basketball hoop over the blue garage, and I leaned around the corner, all
my servile work behind me, up to the house under the trees, rooms full of books
and poems, and two cats in the bay window—they were eyeing those high limbs,
too, and the crows were totally with me now, they saw things from aloft, and
they were calling out, and I bumped up onto the driveway breathing, and I was
calling back, but only as a kind of thinking, really, nothing but a silence under
that glossy helmet, just in the moment when the sun was shrugging down behind
the banks of violet clouds, firing the trunks of the sycamores, tilting the world.


—Originally in Volume 9, Fall 2010


BIO: Frank X. Gaspar is the author of five collections of poetry and two novels. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Morse, Anhinga, and Brittingham Prizes for poetry, and the California Book Award for First Fiction and MassBook of the Year in Fiction. His poems have appeared in many well-known publications, including The New Yorker, and are widely anthologized.