The author of over forty-five books, chapbooks, and monographs including published A Sheaf of Leaves: Literary Memoirs, The Collected Lyrics of Lewis Turco / Wesli Court 1953-2004, and Fantaseers, A Book of Memories, The Museum of Ordinary People and Other Stories and Fearful Pleasures: The Complete Poems of Lewis Turco.
Read the AR interview with Mr. Turco in this issue.
ATTIC, SHED AND BARN
There are always the attic, the shed
and the barn when you’ve nothing else to do
except gaze out the glass door at the turkeys
feeding in the snow. You’ve given them cracked corn,
and you’ve fed the bluejays their peanuts
in the box hanging from the underside
of the deck. So it’s down to the barn where
the seasons lie ruminating among boards
and boxes, and up the shallow steps
made to be used by the dying grandma
who left before she could use them. Now you’re
nearly old enough to appreciate them
yourself. Upstairs, over your bookshop,
the new part of the building, you begin
to see more recent yesterdays gathering:
the overflow of books, posters still scrolling
among themselves on the floor, and this:
your first computer! An Osborne One left
over from 1982, looking like
a sewing machine in its carrying case.
You know today your watch has more K
than that Osborne had. They called it the first
portable computer -- its four-inch monitor,
built in, could show only a quarter-page at
a time. People got dizzy if they
watched as you worked, scrolling back and forth, up
and down, whipping out the words faster than you
used to be able to type, and that was fast.
As far as you know, the machine still
works…and there’s the file of floppies! All that
deathless verse you had to retype on later
hard drives. You wonder how long it will lie there
snoring against the timbers of the barn.
They call it a lighthouse,
but it’s really a soundhouse,
the voice of its foghorn warning boats
of the breakwater shielding Oswego Harbor
and the mouth of the river.
The sky above it is a blue
crystal containing the sun,
a feathering of clouds and a flight
of gulls assembling and breaking up, landing on
the breakwater, and shrieking.
Gulls at the marina
rock in the wake of a boat
going too fast. That’s what the summer’s
done as well. Winter is waiting to fall out of
blue crystal over the lake.
On a line by Bill Watterson
Stuck under the eaves:
A box of ballpoints,
some without innards,
and all without ink
except one lost by
an old poet with
nothing left to say.
Who is that figure, seen as though through mist,
leaning against the gable-end wall?
I can hardly make him out through the dust
and fly-specks on the glass. He is old,
it would appear, old and perhaps confused.
What did he come upstairs looking for
one step at a time, brushing webs aside?
Surely not this looking-glass, oblong,
curved at either end, in a wooden frame
with acorns and leaves carved here and there
holding in its cell this inmate of time,
holding in its glass this prisoner.
And when I turn to leave, will he remain
peering into the attic shadows
to see into the future or the past
among the forgotten boots, boxes
of recollections now forgotten: clothes
no one will wear on a winter day
filled with bluster, or on a summer night
when the fireflies illuminate
one another in anticipation
of what is to come, of what has come
and gone unnumbered seasons in the past,
seasons to be built on webs and dust?
Three of them in the loft of the barn, ancient, old,
and arthritic: a plastic flying saucer
that Christopher used to whip spinning down the hill
from the cemetery to the field behind
the Adamses’; a Flexible Flyer from the 1940s,
perhaps, the kind that I remember using
on a small town hill, hoping no cars would arrive
at the corner before I got down and past
the stop sign — frame of metal, deck of thin boards,
steerable to a degree, unlike the disc or the antique sled
made of solid wood, pine, I think, except for the cast-iron strips nailed
along the edge of the runners, rust-pitted.
They say that plastic never decays, but that’s not true. The saucer
is cracked, the edges are chipped. If it were used
today it would fall apart. The nylon rope Chris
used to haul it back uphill is frayed and worn
thin as the wind I recall moving over fields
of snow and among the gray stones that lovely day.
Christmas Card collaboration by Lewis Turco and George O’Connell*: