The jay streaks through the lilacs
in color clash.
I note down: Invent
so birds drunk
on berries fall off in plaid
in front of my window.
I file it. After all,
the pussy willow’s barely tufted —
I have time.
At the drain, lifting its feet,
a Modigliani bird — another invention?
The brook agrees
so brookishly, gulping at runoff
like a bear in spring,
like my husband. He didn’t trust my patents:
the squirrel-free gutter chain
the collapsing arthritic’s cane
a lever for pulling old stumps
in heavy rain.
But every act harbors a corresponding gadget.
It is that way with God:
adjusting the acorn, locking the tree.
With the womb, He was clearly Italianate,
the bulbous lines, the excess.
I often think of Him
humming Beatles songs like me, over
six Mason jars of pickling —
The dog laughs. You heard it:
a choke, then black gums, a frothing irony.
He’s all wet from rescuing bones
from the brook. He drops them in,
then goes in after.
The brook’s rising with bones and I’m afraid
the electricity will fail. Will the dog
save me with his laughing?
That’s what this invention’s for:
the automatic rosebush waterer,
hooked to the sun and this wheel,
in perpetuity. Once a pirate working
on my outboard told me, Betty, better sand
trickling in the hourglass than a shifting dune.
Even the Sudanese
plant borders of aloe against the drifts.
But I like the look of roses.
Oh, that’s the husband at the door, scratching.
Nights his furry self stands naked
before me, until the dog
removes his stuffing.
O bear! Only by opening
the blinds do I see he’s bleeding.
It’s him, not me, aching
with overdue maternity.
A simple drawerful of cobwebs
kept for emergency does for him,
then together we apprise
holding hands and chatting about the soot stains.
That was in winter before he died, the deft
air stealing all we were speaking.
a patent came for my speech retrieval unit,
an unusual event, even for me, because
the government usually can’t get
past the drawings. And these were intricate:
I had the duck by the neck, her feet
in food coloring, each step
inked in. It all made sense — listen
to the ducks now. And just in time for the aspect —
ghosts are aspects, aren’t they?
Of all but speech I have memory,
that one sense shy of mimicry.
In the spring, now, in fact,
I take the blackfly larvae off rocks
in the rapids.
On toast, pre-maggot, the very eggs
of mortality, eating them I figure
I can lure Death itself, a raccoon
washing and washing in the dark,
and from there, patent the trap.
I’ll be rich if it works.
Works, go the frogs, works, works.
A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow in fiction, Terese Svoboda is the author of six novels, five books of poetry, an award-winning memoir and a book of translation from the Nuer. She is very lucky to have When the Next Big War Blows Down the Valley: Selected and New Poems 1985-2015 appear in November 2015 and Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet in January 2016.
Jacob L. Cross lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He studied creative writing and publishing at the University of Illinois Springfield, where he served as editor of The Popcorn Farm Literary Journal. His work has been featured in Still: The Journal, The Alchemist Review, and elsewhere. More recently, his poems are due for release in Clash by Night, a poetry anthology inspired by the punk staple, London Calling. He enjoys hiking with his wife, traversing Zelda dungeons, spoiling his dogs, and half-priced sushi.