Seersucker

I

In vertical pastel hues,

striped with white,

each button-front shirt

hangs in its state

of perpetual dishevelment.

My closet is lined with them,

like articles of pale candy,

like the promise of a trip

to a hot and humid clime

that errant time

has borne me to.

II

Is my fair frame thus clothed,

in these fantasies,

as I swagger in the Deep South-

where everything is white and green,

swampy,

slick with a slime

of charm, history, and guilt?

Could I see the Mississippi sunset

that Faulkner saw

as he traded barbs about lexicon

with Papa Hemingway?

III

Or am I in India,

the birthplace of said fabric

to combat the womb

of all the world’s sweltering air?

Would I be chewing naan,

standing easily on an old balcony,

thinking of Buddha

and all the hungry ghosts

as I stare towards the tall north-

emerald foothills

with ghostly heights beyond them?

IV

Or do I wear them

back to my roots-

to Rappahannock

and the slumbering Blue Ridge,

where I can attempt to discern

who I am-

and why?

Should I be kneeling

before an old wooden fence

that’s completely shrouded

in blossoming honeysuckle vine-

worshiping at the altar

of nostalgia

and trying to find the genesis

of how each of my words

came to pass?

V

These promises we make-

what weight they carry.

And how unassumingly they hang,

waiting for us to reach out

and finally don them.

 

A MOMENT WHEN THE WORLD WAS PERFECT

A MOMENT WHEN THE WORLD WAS PERFECT

Upon awakening, a pearly October fog had enshrouded the contours and structures of some pleasant rural countryside in a beautiful American place. Quaint and quiet. Shapes were muffled, edges dulled and softened as though fingers had smeared them, blurring them mysteriously. Sounds were hidden, their acoustic vestiges frayed and blunted in the pale soupy murk. The fog had a faint hissing quality, barely audible, and one could feel its innumerable fingers touching in a slight ghostly way upon the face and hands; they were still hands, limp hands that were shocked into stillness at the enchantment of dawn in early October.

The fog was beginning to glow yellow-white, an ill-defined blush of faded orange and soft rose accompanying the burgeoning brilliance, and the colors were at their brightest, their most luminous, in the east. And then the sun broke over the cold dry branches of the trees. They were holding legions of leathery yellow leaves aloft in their parched amber manes. The very air seemed ignited by Paradise, by cataclysm. Seen from within, the fog appeared set aflame as one stood facing eastward into the radiant face of the rising sun that spilled over the tops of the cold wraiths of the trees.

That was how she stood.

Catherine held a steaming mug of coffee in her hands as she observed the sunrise through the icy cold shroud of the autumn fog. She cradled the mug gently, like a poem. It was a treasure that was delicate, and she realized that the whole wide world was just then cradling her in that exact same attentive way. In the fog, Catherine felt at the center of her own existence, at the center of it all. The universe was pregnant with her, and she was filled with its primal luster, its beauty. It wasn’t at all far-fetched that everything that ever was revolved around her.

Catherine was bespelled, enraptured by the October fog and the divine glory of the sunrise. God, she knew, wasn’t often found in a church or temple or mosque. He didn’t orate from the altar at Mass, draining his blood and shedding his body to be devoured by his followers. God was in that very morning, and Catherine could see plainly that the sunrise was his face. The woman was humbled as she stood there, but she was also significant. Her soul was glittering, her heart a mass of jewels.

She breathed in the light. Warm hues of illumination. Her spirit was warmed in the way that Dickinson warmed her. But her body was chilled in the thick damp bank of opaque cloud that had settled itself down upon the environment during some cold lightless night time hour. In the ample embrace of her heavy woolen sweater, thick-collared and navy blue and draped below her wide hips, she was outfitted for a cool fall morning. Her autumnal ensemble was further perfected with the addition of a black knitted scarf that was looped several times around her neck and shoulders and by the black leggings and brown boots that she wore. Her dark brown hair was cut very short, like a boy’s hair. She liked that “pixie” cut and Adam liked it as well; he liked to run his run his fingers through her short hair when they kissed, his fingertips tickling the sensitive skin of her scalp and the base of her skull. The soft paleness of the back of her neck was exposed to the chill.

Catherine’s face was fresh and pleasant, cheeks and nose tinted in rose. Her features were alive and glittering in the way that faces are only when they’re cold. Only her hands that cradled the hot mug of coffee were truly warm. She brought the thick rim of the mug to her soft lips and she took a drink. The moisturizing lip gloss that Catherine wore caused her lips to stick slightly to the coffee mug when she removed it. A sigh escaped her afterwards, a satisfied sigh. The new warmth hidden in her Rubenesque belly was akin to that fiery warmth in her soul.

Yellowed leaves, and some that were orange and a desiccated brown, were strewn across the faded brittle green of the grass. The grass was bleached by the sun that had shown fiercely in late summer and early autumn, but the dry green was fresh with beads of cool dew. The droplets glittered purely on the withered blades so that they looked like innumerable chips of glass in the dawn light. The hush was magic.

The leaves were also scattered across the gravel driveway, one end leading to Catherine’s house and the other to an unpaved country road. Most of the driveway, however, was concealed from view in the shifting pale glow of the fog; the house nor the road could be seen through the murk. If her familiar environs weren’t her own, Catherine doubted that she could have been able to say with any surety in which direction the road lay and in which her home lay.

Silence. But within the muting fog faint sounds were strictly separated, partitioned off from one another. Sounds echoed dimly as though they were no more than dreams, no more than leaves falling or mermaids singing in the deep gloom. There was a charge in the air like a sharpened point that pressed against ice cold frosted glass. There was a threat, the promise of release. It was an energy that an observant could sometimes discern in the fall. Energies of different sorts were frequently borne upon autumn’s crisp back, too short-lived and artfully burnished in tones of bronze, gold, and scarlet.

Days such as the one Catherine was inhabiting conjured breathless smiles and ruddy cheeks, lungfuls of delicate crisp air that chimed inside of a person like crystal. Shards of autumnal firmament were swallowed down like spice. These were the days. These were times for sweaters and scarves, for old industrious literature and hot drinks, for full flasks in the hands of dry-faced and sparkly-eyed gentleman with chapped lips and companionable smiles. Aromas of smoke, crushed leaves, leather, and cinnamon. These were times for long walks, alone but for the company of bourbon-colored leaves that filled the trees and fluttered with enthusiasm to the cold hard earth. These were days of cool fog at dawn and dusk, ample skies shrouded in overcast grey.

As the rising sun burnt through the October fog along the very close tree-edged horizon, Catherine’s face tilted skyward, and she beheld through the thinning blanket of fog overhead a bluish tint. There would be no grey overcast sky on that autumn day. It would be a vast sapphire sky. Unseen as of yet, Catherine knew that it would be a cloudless day that would contrast brilliantly with the brown land.

He was then walking towards her through the brightening fog, each of his muffled footsteps piercingly pulled apart from one another in his easy ambling gait. He was coming from the direction that the road lay, and Catherine could hear the faint crunch of small gravel beneath his steps. Adam’s footfalls were softened in the way that the colors were also softened, as were the forms of the dreamlike undersea world that Catherine was immersed in, the timeless enchanted world that was slowed and stilled in the obfuscating shroud of fog. His murky steps within the concealed heart of that realm were like the fine subtle tick of a clock’s slender hands.

Adam had only been walking the dog for an hour or so on that particular morning. He enjoyed taking the dog out just before sunrise, in that bruised pink blush that unerringly heralded the dawn, especially in the antiqued paints that comprised the vibrant palette of autumn. As Adam’s grey form was conjured out of the fog, Catherine could discern the hurried steps of the dog in loyal accompaniment.

He was then removed from the fog entirely, ambling easily in Catherine’s direction, and their Brittany Spaniel trotted excitedly next to Adam, a swaying leash tethering the loyal canine to its master. Adam was wearing a burgundy sweater and a scarf of green and black plaid, and he also wore brown corduroy trousers, and black athletic shoes that were suitable for walking. Through his well-groomed sandy blonde beard, Adam smiled handsomely at Catherine as he came at her through the fog, up the gnarled drive.

“Hey, good-lookin. Good morning. I could smell your coffee.”

“Good morning, handsome,” she answered warmly, smiling attractively. When Catherine spoke the spaniel became excited at her voice and pulled Adam more fervently towards the woman. “How was the walk?”

“Perfect. What a beautiful morning.”

The dog reached Catherine first and licked her hands, nudging them roughly in the process. Some of Catherine’s coffee was jostled up over the brim up over the sticky brim of her mug. “Damn it,” she quietly hissed, wincing slightly as some of the hot coffee spilled onto the pale soft skin of one of her hands. Dark watery drops splattered onto the fine smoke-colored gravel of the driveway.

She caressed the top of the spaniel’s head to calm it as she brought the mug to her lips to hurriedly lower its contents to a more manageable level. Adam reached Catherine and kissed her mouth. The spilled coffee was forgotten. She tasted like coffee and the unbrushed morning, and, to Adam, it was not at all unpleasant. Adam tasted like cigar smoke, and the woodsy aroma was freshly-baked into his beard. He sometimes smoked a small flavored cigar when he went on his morning walks.

When their kiss ended, lips parting soundlessly in the crisp October morning, they both followed their dog down the gravel driveway in the direction of their home. It was still hidden amongst the sea of fog that lay heavy over everything. The dog knew the way home unerringly. It was threaded into the fabric of its being.

“Is there more coffee, honey? That tastes delicious,” Adam asked, smirking as he did so because he referred then to the taste of the warm brew that was hinted at upon Catherine’s generous lips.

“There sure is, babe,” Catherine replied. “I’ve only had this one cup from the pot so far. I slept in a little bit.”

With their next ambling steps, the familiar comfort of their home revealed itself through the damp tide of the fog. Catherine and Adam felt warmed at the sight; it bloomed in their hearts gracefully. They were emboldened and wistful.

It was a quiet autumnal Saturday. They day was gleefully empty.

It was a moment when the world was perfect.