“Journey’s End,” “At the Breakfast Table” and “Ode to the Waltz”

In Issue 58 by Malcolm Glass

Image
Photo by David M. Chambers on Unsplash

Journey's End

for Bill Elliott (1966-2019)

The old canoe rests on the sand

at lake's edge, its stern still

in the water. How many

strokes of the paddle wore away

the varnish on the gunwales?

Many. So many. And years

of sunlight and rain. Years

of snow and wind.

Beyond the canoe, the lake

wrinkles with a steady breath

of wind. The bare branches

of a leaning tree melt

into the water, as though

they have been yearning

for this fading from sight.

Stowed behind the woven-rope

seat in the narrow crevice

of the stern, a windbreaker

lies crumpled, left behind,

like a memory held forever

in a photograph.

At the Breakfast Table

We sat at the small round table

in the kitchen. No bigger than

a walk-in closet, listening to

“The Breakfast Club” on an Arvin

radio. That was eighty-two years

ago, and I can still recall the announcer

telling everyone to march around

the breakfast table. And I marched.

Mummy beat time with her wooden

spoon on the iron frying pan,

and stamped her feet on the yellow,

cracked linoleum floor. Outside,

no leaves fell in the October

drizzle. The grapefruit tree had

given us our first course. We had

moved on to oatmeal, and she

cautioned, Not too much sugar now.

It’s rationed. I did not know what

that meant, but I tried to be careful.

Outside, the palm fronds swayed

in the wind, a car squealed its brakes

at the corner, the neighbor’s dog

slept by his front door. The war was

changing everything, my father said.

But no one, not the trees, the cars,

the dog, nor my father and mother,

nor I, had any idea what that meant,

what it would come to mean.

Ode to the Waltz

— for JF

The country waltz turns

clockwise. I move only

counter-clockwise,

or so I had always thought.

Across the dance floor,

we fought, with genteel

faltering, foot and elbow,

knee, shoulder, eye

and hand, one against

the other, two clockwork

mice wound too

tight, earnest in our

desire to get it

right.

How earnestly

I desire, now,

to turn adroitly

clockwise, to follow

your steps to bring

us grace — no

longer awry, faltering,

but in perfect measure,

comely, in sweet balance and swing,

turn and counter-turn, to say how

I love waltzing any waltz with you.

About the Author

Malcolm Glass

Facebook

Over the past sixty-five years, Malcolm Glass has published a dozen books of poetry and non-fiction. His poems, fiction, and articles have appeared in many journals, including “Poetry” (Chicago), “Prairie Schooner,” “The Vanderbilt Review,” “The Linking Ring,” and “The Sewanee Review.” His newest collection of poems, “Mirrors, Myths, and Dreams” was released by Finishing Line Press in 2018.