Ode to Everything, Saunders Trail Attempt
“When I was younger / I wrote this poem many times and don’t know / where I was going with it.”
—Lucia Perillo, “Juarez”
My ex-Mormon friend spent her first divorced summer
in Morocco tonguing new hangovers
while I’m sweating mine out in Central Virginia
draped in mosquitoes.
Men draped her in scarves, their hands parentheticals
around her breasts. Nothing like side boob
in the morning to grease the wheels, fortify the appetite.
I haven’t seen that kind of action
since—well, I’m too old to say but young enough
to remember those women I once touched
as I walk along Saunders Trail, chaste as a fart,
noting English ivy choking the elms, oaks,
and walnuts: I’m gathering material for an Ode to Everything.
Here’s leaves raking wind.
Here’s ocean clamoring inside them.
Here’s where I expel self-pity
and trade a lecherous proclivity for identifying
pawpaw, hemlock, and tulip poplar.
If I were smarter and funnier,
I’d add white rats, pirouettes, ripe plums
a hand dusting lead from Flint, Michigan’s pipes
like dandruff from shoulders.
Can we agree children should suffer
only earaches and mild anxiety?
Let’s consult on how best to represent
their interests through a list
of jump ropes, right swipes, plum pies,
pumpkins carved into gangrenous skulls.
Let’s exchange emojis, redacted here
to honor the ode’s allegiance to the alphabet.
Then I’ll snap you a video of a pawpaw,
fat and innocent as a baby’s thigh,
and hate myself a little for using Snapchat.
After pocketing a few pawpaws, which taste
of citrus and beer, from Thomas Jefferson’s land
I’ll compose an ode to the largest indigenous fruit
in North America. Sorry, plums:
the pawpaw’s snapped my heart (get it?!)
much like poison ivy butters skin.
I’ve never learned its shape (like mittens),
its rule of three (like witches), its ruddy
progress irritating as love can be—
I know I should get on with it.
The trail’s got another mile before dropping me
by the pond where amphibian lust ping-pongs.
On it I’ll collect silence, a cure for lead poisoning,
a more confident stride, a sideways glance
at the runner passing me, her body glazed
in sweat, an untied shoelace scribbling Jefferson’s signature.
I’ll offer to tie it when we both pause
beside the pond where I’ll expound
on invented facts about frog physiology,
tell her a joke: a divorced Mormon,
a poet, and Thomas Jefferson walk into a bar.
You can imagine the rest.