Coming Ashore at Chapel Hill and other poems
Coming Ashore at Chapel Hill
For S.J.E.. Thanks, Sis, for the rescue.
And thanks to your good college friends.
Restless both day and night at Duke
Hospital, biopsied for the cause
of my malingering fever (spook
of cat-scratch malady’s sharp black claws),
I was just thrilled to see your schnozz,
your smiling eyes, your friends’ good will,
plus amber suds they let me swill.
You weren’t serene. “He’s just thirteen!”
“My bunkmate’s gone. He’ll have his bed.”
“But who’ll take care . . . ?”
“The sheets are clean.
Tonight, an aspirin for his head.
At breakfast, I will see he’s fed . . . .”
I zonked — as coached, my hand on the floor —
feeling so glad to be ashore.
Perplexed, I tried to mind my P’s and Q’s.
How make that first impression good, awhirl
with all your kin at dinner? Dared not lose
you, pearl of my heart, by coming off a churl!
I could not reckon what to make of it:
On seven faces lurked a fleeting curl
of quivering lips. Seven sets of eyes lit
with laughter! On the table fourteen fists
gripped forks and knives upright! Where was my wit?
About to ape you all, I flexed my wrists.
Your dad gazed round, cried “Stroke!” You all fell to
on chicken casserole, and reminisced
with chortles how it was you passed the cue
and played this joke on first-time guests for dinner.
“It came from Philip’s training table. Crew.
They won the Henley Cup — our Phil a winner! —
you see?” your mom said, pointing, with a smile.
Yet, what most eased my angst was, rather, inner:
Fisting his knife and fork in comic style,
your dad had gazed at me with warmth and winked —
and I dared trust he’d walk you down the aisle.
Our eighteen year old lad’s best friend’s a lass
on horseback: He sees “farrier” in his glass.
He mopes about and hungers for the skills.
He needs a pickup truck and 20 bills
to go to West Virginia Farrier School.
So he, an aunt, and we chip in a pool.
Returning home, he’s thrilled, no more aloof.
His pickup’s capped. A chimney thrusts its roof.
Our sooty farrier dances round its rear
by anvil, stocks of iron, coal forge, gear,
while old time anthracite ascends our skies
above his rippling forearm, gleaming eyes.
He clangs out glowing shoes at pony sheds,
but learns real money’s earned on thoroughbreds.
A race horse farrier says, “It’s no black hole,
and I can school you, so you learn control
of any flighty high-strung winning horse . . . .”
First day, in shock and tears, he flees the course.
We walk and walk, ’til he gets out his blues:
“This guy, so gross! Designs corrective shoes,
makes champions on the Derby Winners scene.
Controls the horses with a hammer’s peen” —
he swallows back the tears, but outrage prods —
“he whacks a filly’s flank, a stallion’s cods.”
Leland Jamieson lives and writes in East Hampton, Connecticut, USA. Recent and forthcoming work appears in numerous print and Internet magazines. His first book, 21st Century Bread: Poems, can be previewed and is available at http://www.lulu.com/lelandjamieson.
Photo "Grazing Horses" by Bella Dante.
Poems Copyright © 2008 Leland Jamieson. All rights reserved.
Photo Copyright © 2008 Bella Dante. All rights reserved.