Robert VanderMolen

Rainy Day In January

The Neighborhood


Rainy Day In January

Charlie’s swimming pool is covered
With a tarp, sagging, alleys of birdseed shucks
And twigs, a couple of throw-away cups—faltering trees
Along the side, a slat fence noticeably rotting—you get the idea.
But he’s mostly concerned with rodents patrolling
The guesthouse. He’d prefer more dignity, some live ravens
On the cupola if he could arrange it. But it’s fighting
Nature: this season doesn’t call for much nobility.
Congregations of memories, phantoms, flitting
Through raindrops—these big ones spaced apart–
Well, take a look—by evening there’ll be a blizzard.
It’s like the indecent thought just before slumber.
The ease of a daydream that cruises the main drag
Until it comes to the steps of the library, to the legs
Of Helen who inherited the mirror factory, who tags along
With the head librarian—the less said of the latter the better.
Don’t think of career moves, said Charlie. Do what you love.
Easy for him to say, as he’s gliding through the door
To head south on his private jet to Palm Beach. Can’t take
The winter anymore, he says. But it may be the community—
Trouble with a small town, it’s tough to sneak in and out
Of either motel. But you’re new here. It’s a place
Where people get quick and drunk in the dark.
And apologize to each other—apologize after sex.
Crowd the churches on holidays. They consider themselves
Earthy—Anyway, here’s a list of jobs for the coming weeks.
I wouldn’t scurry like a squirrel about it. It won’t be spring
Until Helen paints her toenails



The Neighborhood

Fruit of osage-orange bobbing down Mears Creek
Until they lodge against rocks at the rapids

If you climb a small tree you can see the lake…

Lingering up the road a trading post, set back,
Is nailed shut, the one window white-washed,
Probably full of junk. No one notices it
Behind overgrown lilacs, tall grasses…

Where I live south of the two-lane were cabins
Of fisherman, though none remain today
Except those incorporated into larger cottages…
Virgin pine and hardwoods, towering timber,
Though some have been ruined by storm and disease.
A fine quietness when wind isn’t blowing over water…

Even further along the road alpaca graze
Throughout a pasture. One morning they were loose,
Gazing from the blacktop seemingly full of wonder.
With neighbors we managed to crowd them over
Into their enclosure before the sheriff showed up…

Willy told me he had a friend who helped tear
The barn apart for its lumber, and found a Civil War
Pistol wrapped tight in oilcloth. As it turns out, a soldier
Walked home from the war, then shot himself
In the head two days later, his mother sliding the gun
Between wallboards after the funeral

By this time the trading post would have evolved
Into a general store…

Off and on too, archeological digs have occupied
The edges of Harlow’s Swamp, an area where indigenous
Families had camped for thousands of summers…

Bear in mind, water levels are higher now
Because of the dam…


ROBERT VANDERMOLEN lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A new collection, Skin, will be published in the fall with Milkweed Editions. Recent work in London Review of Books, Poetry, Caliban, and The Michigan Quarterly Review.