Lakewood Poetry - Interview with Jack McGuane

Trees of Lakewood

It's the nature of the trees in summer
to take the weight of sunshine
off the shoulders of new moms
with their babies in Madison park,

to shepherd stray breezes down
orange-barrel tunnels on Detroit
and Franklin for guys with their hands full
laying pipes and wires in the streets,

to make sure there's plenty of cover
on Mars and Onondaga, slumbery
August afternoons, for grandmas and grandpas
skinny-kissing in hammocks

to hold entwined initials carved by lovers --
ropes for old tire swings --
birds' housing projects --
storage bins for thrifty squirrels --

to reserve a patch of cool and damp
for an old Yellow Lab with hip dysplasia
who's finished his work and now just lies there,
eyes half-closed, dreaming of rabbits.

Two Sparrows on Parkway Drive

They're at it again this morning
right outside my window,
boffing on top of the birdhouse
in front of all the neighbors.

She's a bird nympho
and he must be pecking Viagra
the way he keeps coming back
and back and back.
Meanwhile, on my internet screen
the war proceeds serenely,
our losses only nineteen hundred,
dead Iraqis everywhere,

Saddam in the slammer.
And we're making rapid strides
convincing the Arabs
how much better off they'll be
once they become like us.

No reports on dead birds.
Ornithologists are excluded among
the embedded war correspondents.
But the sparrows are hip
and these two work hard
knocking out replacements
in case our birds have to fight their birds.

Sparrows are a lot like us,
they have their daily turf wars
at the feeder and the bird bath,
they gang up on every crow that happens by
whether or not he means them any harm.

I find a few dead in my garden every summer.
I'm thinking of starting up
the Lakewood Casket Co.
to make little flag-draped coffins
and send them home to their parents,
along with a bag of bird seed
and the condolences of the Mayor.


Some days it's all so wrong,
birds sing flat, butterflies dress up
in clashing colors, caterpillars,
scooped up by sparrows,

cry for mercy from the bellies of
cats who swallow the sparrows,
every wall out of square,
buildings tilted, windows stuck,
traffic lights all red, unruly
second graders overthrow their teachers.

It's not just me, you can taste it in the
rancid air, hear it
in the growl of traffic (listen)
smell it on the breath of newscasters.

Grace called in sick today, exhausted
from running interference for
pastors, pimps, and pushers
with their alligator egos.
We're on our own for a few hours
and even the pavement is buckling.


I must admit, my dear, I was unprepared
for the consequences to myself
when you had your knee replaced,
though I'm happy to be your caregiver.
You've been mine for most of our life together.

The stairs provide great exercise for me
without abandoning you for the gym.
Thirty trips is as good as a flat mile any day,
not to mention eight or ten times
up and down the basement.

We both know I turn every souffle into an omelet
and you have suffered in gracious silence.
I know you appreciate every small improvement.

-- But about the butter --

Tuesday you said, Please, put a little more on the toast,
Wednesday you said, Oh no, this is too much.
Thursday I put it on the side and you said --

Do you remember what you said on Thursday?

*Originally appeared in Family Matters: Poems of Our Families published by Bottom Dog Press, Huron OH Oct. 2005.

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