Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Self-Portrait as Yard Boy

What I learned of loneliness I learned mostly
mowing the lawn. August; Texas dusk; finally
not too hot to push a rotting motor through

the dry grass of a quarter-acre backyard. Tall fence,
a few trees, shapes of neighbors shadowing the gaps.
We’d speak to each other when the fence was broken.

Otherwise, there I was alone knowing my dad
wanted the grass an inch shorter but the clouds,
at least, were heavenly, heaven-sent—they filled, I mean, the bland

oppressive sky with pink, like cotton candy
at a funeral. And why did I feel guilty then
as I do now watching the season

start saying again spring with specks of wildflowers—
plains paintbrush, Blackfoot daisy. It should be as easy:
grown, the mind tilled of its infertile habits.

The wish to go, for example, to my Father and confess
I only wanted to hear well done
my good and faithful servant or at least my name

called as a dog’s would have been
if we owned one. Well, there was for a moment Buddy,
Collie the color of a cow, rioting like mad

in our too close yard. And maybe they weren’t lying,
maybe they took him out to the farm: generic, boundless,
as true as a math equation. Maybe they’d only left out

how he loved us, how he turned upon encountering
fields forever back toward the blue Windstar
with the sliding door he emerged from wanting

to go back home. So, this is not a prayer but an elegy.
The “I” one sets off like a plot of land
grows smaller each year. The names

I’d thought would scatter like clippings
from an unfinished childhood have rooted
and bloomed: Buddy: rowdy-in-the-tall-grass;

Moses, goofy-eyed and shy, juking in the volleyball sand;
and Goldie, here, in the pollinated afternoon air,
shaggy-haired-terrier rolling her barrel body

in the lawn—let this be one
of the many of her memories that seed
in my synapses. Only the necessary

remains. I, for example, still must say I,
though I’m not that boy anymore
and now suspect I never was.  

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