Finalist, Joe Bolton Poetry Award
A grizzly bear paw is a shovel
with claws on the edge of the blade.
Stores sell sand toys for children
in the shape of their toolish hands
for digging and acting differently.
Some city people have never felt
the forehead of a cow expecting to be fed.
Some country people have never walked
past a person without saying hello
or smiling with their face and eyes.
When I returned home,
I beeped at a car halted
at the Stop sign for too long.
My father said, “Be patient.”
If I were to hibernate,
I’d choose an abandoned building
and brick myself into its basement
with a feather pillow and a sledge
hammer for sleeping and breaking
out of everything I have
created for myself.
The inside of a buttercup has the same paint
as my grandfather’s old Cutlass. Not the color, yellow
or even gold, but glossy with glitter flecks that catch the light.
Everyone makes up their own rules to save the world.
My grandfather would save old baler twine
and white woven plastic seed bags because anything can be
something else when the time comes. He would
use the twine for a belt and the seed bags for garbage.
Because he kept things nice in his own way,
Grandpa laid a yellow and red plaid blanket down
upon the upholstery before he loaded the backseat up
with one or two hay bales like groceries for the cattle.
A majority of people don’t understand the difference
between straw and hay—it’s all about what is being
cut and the color it makes when it dries. Even so,
most people don’t see a distinction to be made.
Most things were before my time and most things
will come after. I don’t remember the era of burlap
on the farm. And even my father is too young to remember
the car trips that took all day because there was a flat
tire to mend every twenty miles or so.
But I saw the light that came sideways through the crack
in the windshield of the Cutlass and landed on Grandpa’s cheek.
It was the day he had me drive him around the farm while he chuckled
at the length of my legs and the way they bend so effortlessly.
Now he has passed. And the car is a toolshed.
The axles are buckled under the iron and scrap
stacked on the seats, and nothing runs anymore.
The keys are in the ignition. The blanket is in there
somewhere. Buttercups are growing on the dashboard.
JAMES ALLEN THOMSON’s poetry has appeared in Poached Hare. He lives in Texas where he is a lecturer of English at Texas State University.