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Cal Freeman

The Answer to Your Question Is, “I Didn’t Want to Live and Die Here”

where the snow is velvet and the boxwoods retain
no warmth—where four legs anchor, slip, but never fall.
You dreamed the door with the jammed deadbolt burst open
and birds flew in. I don’t want to say cold, but cold,
I’ve been musing over wants and mystified by mechanisms
as simple as snaffles and guitars—the hackamore teaches
what it can; nylon strings speak in fricatives; the nouns purport
a spiritual connection to every place they’ve known
and abandoned in the thickets of their connotations,
delivering ancient wisdom in a series of translations,
a writ of fonts and erstwhile languages so inscrutable
only the owls can read. You must have known some day
our borders would crust up like this (locked doors,
signs cautioning about dogs and trespass), but it wasn’t love,
strictly, that made you stay a year too long
where they hoot and hunt and spit their dross
in the most indelicate places: on the coat of a chestnut mare,
on your sidesaddle stirrups and your Cadillac. Such wisdom
we attributed to them while invoking ancient themes,
renting Mercy for an hour, that trail horse named for something
you learned about one distant Sunday and tried to offer me.”

Must We on the Way to the Island

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In memory of David Krenshaw, drowned in the Grosse Ile Canal, 1987

Hear the song of drowned Krenshaw,
a song that has no words, adumbrations
of ice along a scrim of shore.
I remember the waterspout on Lake Erie
one July evening decades ago,
the plaited grey sky against
the tail of grey menacing
what weakened it—land, gaze, breath—
Malaise, that mechanism
for seeing the evident in grief, bedevils
the old innocence. The old innocents
took a hammer to the ice to test it
before crossing the canal. Krenshaw’s mother
leaves traces of kisses on the filters
of Virginia Slims. She has no appetite
for seasons. I’ve only loved
the Christ child to the nether points
of accountability, I want to tell her.
There’s no reason to believe
in rebirth from this dank bedding
when you have an unabated Manitoba
slicing at your favorite thicket
and Hermes again slicing at the throat
of mist—psychopomp, Escort
whose tires the grates of the drawbridge
pull for a closer look over the rail
where Krenshaw lives.

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