The broken refrigerator

Hasn’t everyone had refrigerator problems–the ice maker, the filtered water, or too much frost, or it’s just not working?  Here’s a sweet take on replacing one from The Writer’s Almanac.

In a Dream of Chivalry

My father is helping the Ledoux sisters
move their old refrigerator
into the basement when they buy the new one.
The dolly hasn’t been touched for years,
but it still has grease in the wheel bearings
and makes a mollifying squeak
as he bumps across the threshold
from the kitchen to the parlor.
He moves delicately to keep the balance,
avoiding the soft places in the floor,
and as he moves, those Ledouxs tsk
and fuss about what to fix for supper.
He thinks now on hot afternoons
as they cool off in the basement
they won’t have to climb the stairs
to freshen two glasses with iced tea.
He is happy they have patched things up
after decades of not speaking.
Nina Totenberg is talking on public radio.
Pea their green parakeet is singing.
At the stairs he loosens the straps,
takes the refrigerator off the dolly,
lays it on a quilt and edges it slowly.
It is a kind day, breezy and mildly warm.
My father is not jousting or scaling a battlement.
He is watching the Ledoux sisters
show off their new refrigerator, its four adjustable
trays, chill drawer, and ice-maker—
and sees himself handsome, a knight, a sir.
Under his overalls’ armor, his tie is still knotted.
A Sunday. How clean things are.
When Belle touches the button
on the little spigot on the door
clear water pours into a silver cup.

Rodney Jones

Two poems

Today, I am posting a poem form Poem-A-Day that I saved awhile ago, by Xan Phillips.  But it also reminds me of a wonderful short poem by Stephen Crane, so I’m including them both.

I Never Felt Comfortable in My Own Skin So I Made a New One

I was on a walk when I was struck by the precarity of the gender that wore me,
which moved my matter, wrote books, and fell in love. as a child, I scoured

the forest for brittle cicada skins abandoned on trees. husks present differently now
a pair of nylons caught in the thicket, a beak surviving its decomposing bird,

a mural of George Floyd with a purple cock spray-painted on his beryl cheek.
among these discreet mutilations, I pull a line of thought through flesh

where a misled margin slept. I was uninhabitable before I snared a man
for his hide. I was not unlike the skin of a drum thriving under a stamina

that made music of me before I split. you wouldn’t recognize me now
if you saw me in the trees, played out, scattered to the undergrowth. I took a life

and returned it to scale and membrane. I foraged a life coated in plastic
and mud from the highway overpass. it reeked of wheatpiss and it was mine.

Copyright © 2022 by Xan Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

And this one, by Stephen Crane, perhaps 100 years before Xan  Pillips:

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

It seems to me Xan must have read this, but I haven’t found a way to contact them to ask.

Agatha Christie

I get The Writer’s Almanac from Garrison Keeler daily, and rarely read anything but the poem. But today there was this lovely photo of Agatha Christie, whose work has given me a lot of pleasure. She was born in 1890. From the detailed article about her, I selected this to share with you:

She set her first novel, Snow Upon the Desert, in Cairo and used the pen name “Monosyllaba.” The book was rejected by numerous publishers. She tried again with a book called The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), which featured an extravagantly mustached Belgian detective named Hercule Poirot. The book was a hit, and Christie was off and running. Hercule Poirot would be featured in more than 33 of Christie’s novels, though she admitted she found Poirot “insufferable and an egocentric creep.” She actually killed off Poirot in a novel titled Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, in the early 1940s, and had it stored in a bank vault to safeguard it from Nazi destruction during World War II. When the book was published in 1975, the New York Times ran Hercule Poirot’s obituary on the front page.

Back from the ocean

I spent several weeks on Cape Cod with a rotating cast of friends and relatives, an ideal vacation Because the surf is still pounding in my head, I thought I’d start the fall offerings with a poem of my own for a change, one that captures some of that experience.

The Afternoon Before the Day of Atonement

I thought I would see seals asleep on the rocks,
but the cormorant was the real show,
wrestling a twisted length of eel,
persistently untwisting with its beak
to swallow it whole.
Then, as I watched, uncertain whether
I’d seen eel or kelp straighten and slide
down the long bird throat, it speared
its beak into the surf and did it again:
unmistakably eel, writhing
for its life, no match for the skilled,
beak-tossing cormorant.

And the whole time, and afterward,
waves rake the shore,
and I wonder how to ask forgiveness
for being myself: merciless
like the cormorant, frantic
like the eel, thoughtless
like both, though I am designed to think,
a mindful tool, whose eyes engage the ocean
to sense the curve and crash of the infinite.

I take off my shoes and run along the lace
of waves, border between two worlds
that is never fixed,
run as the tide drives landward
and the land lifts and resettles
a little with each pulse,
crystal and brine, wrack and sand fleas,
run because I can, because my heart drives
salt blood through its intricate networks,
because I am alive
though many I’ve loved are gone,
because I am here on this glittering September afternoon
legs pumping, heart pumping, mind wrestling
with this slippery existence.