Three Poems by Clyde Kessler
I found Jebby Eldon drowning
and fished him out crazy like sand
scuffed into wood. A year later
he plays music at Midkiff’s Bar,
plays jazz that scrambles pale smoke
into some wild, clanky riffs.
Sometimes he helps me load the barge
or takes his old mutt hound hunting
grouse on his daddy’s farm, where birds
fly out like pine needles in a devil breeze,
and blue lizards rustle across a rock bluff
like fossils chiseled from midair.
Jebby shoots nothing, just laughs
along the lake fence where he should be dead.
He tells me a young albino owl has pulled
its wings from a pine knot, has fringed
all its howling into another man’s life.
Jebby says I shoulda left him water-logged.
The Capehill Barge
I float some cars to the island.
Jebby says they’ll be the last
ridden across Capehill’s
flat crater pig path, moonlight
frizzing into snow and pumice.
The barge stays cold tonight
and its shaky steel has flowered
against Old Moody’s Landing
like a rusty package swapped
for some stars and music.
But Jebby sings his money
and I sing some crablegs and brew,
a sour breezy comfort with our haul,
with all these trembled beach cabins
paled for another night’s Christmas.
The Prize Bull
Hobey and Jebby raced one night,
caught the slant of a roof, and flew
their dirt bikes past Ruben Coyle’s
prize bull. They yelped like fools
haunted by the deepest, coldest mud
sunk in a thaw. And the bull roughed
at them like a tank, knocked Hobey
against a fence post, bounced Jebby
two flips against a cattle guard.
I laughed three days after I patched them.
Made their eyes look like one slow twitching
burl-knot hating sunlight. They slumped
to Betty’s house, and she laughed, too—said
the air won’t breathe itself without some jokes,
and here’s two fine ones, joined in their bruises.
I hear the boys done raced again on Coyle’s land.
I hear the bull has started goring shadows.