I. Man on Verandah
I sit alone, except for one
standoffish piebald cat. But none
should pity me. I like this view:
the bay untroubled and pale blue,
a clear sky kissed by morning sun,
and fantasies my brain has spun.
In one I’m young again; I’ve won
a sailboat race. And though it’s true
I sit alone,
I see my Ruthie, almost done
with one more crossword. She would stun
me with the news. I think she knew
her odds were slim; I had no clue.
Although I thought we’d just begun,
I sit alone.
II. Dog and Priest
We take the painter’s word for it: a priest,
the title says. It’s plausible: hands clean,
clothes dark and neatly pressed—the slacks still creased—
but no clerical collar can be seen,
only the dog’s. The black Lab sits up straight,
alert beside the lounging man of God,
who may be idling here to contemplate
Creation in this lake. But it seems odd
that he should sprawl here in these formal clothes—
and though it’s likely he surveys the vast
blue water, that’s just something we suppose;
perhaps instead he keeps his eyes downcast.
The dog’s head, with its bright eye, mutely mocks
the vagueness of the man whose face it blocks.
The man’s broad back is what seduces me.
He stands between the ocean—vast and pale—
and that dark gun I wish I didn’t see,
its foreground prominence undoubtedly
a sign of trouble. Nobody could fail
to notice it, but what seduces me
is that broad back, the muscularity
and cool slouch of a strong and silent male
in trouble. And I wish I didn’t see
the man’s past in the gun’s proximity,
the evidence of some grim film-noir tale
he’s turned his back on. What seduces me
is how his posture hints that he can’t flee;
a breaker falls, but he’s known larger-scale
collapse, his future difficult to see.
I almost hear the soundtrack—the ennui
of smoky jazz, a riff on lives gone stale.
But still, the man’s broad back seduces me;
then there’s the gun I wish I didn’t see.
Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014); her third book will appear in early 2022. She is Associate Poetry Editor of Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art, and a Professor Emeritus of Music at Bridgewater State University.
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