The white-haired custodian
helps me with hauling my hi-fi
to my second-floor apartment,
a studio, with one door
and a window too high
At the first landing, he gestures
me to the window. Come take a look.
Down there. On a cement slab,
a man in powder-blue sweater lies
face-down, arms spread into wings,
legs buckled backwards.
The cops think he jumped from up there.
I step back. Nothing to be afraid of
. . . only a dead body.
I had just exchanged my unlocked
family house for a dim hallway
of numbered doors, chain-bolt rattles.
And my futon, lobster trap table,
Chianti-basket candle holders,
Night Hawks in the kitchenette
fail to make here a home,
until Sven delivers from his stash
in the basement, four glass blocks
to hold up my door desk.
I thought they’d work.
He switches on my desk lamp.
Knowing he and his wife
dwell just beneath me,
among pressed cottage curtains,
cream cakes, and Hummels,
I brave the cobwebby back staircase
from my car, sleep better.
All summer, he places orange cones
in my space behind the building,
shoos away Red Sox fans. They’ll park
in your living room, if you don’t
lock your door, and without a word,
sweeps bottle glass
from his immaculate front steps,
trashed by my out-of-hand
student party the night before.
Later that night, he taps on my door,
jingles the keys left outside in my lock.
Thought you might need these.
America’s Main Street
On three-hundred-mile car days,
the water in our portable
window AC hotter
than the summer blaze,
my sister and I whining
for a pool – any small oval
dug before a rustic motor court,
screen doors slamming in the wind,
outhouses at the rear.
pastel-with-white-stripe De Soto,
yearly cruising Route 66 –
its ruler-flat horizons, endless cornfields,
no-stoplight towns, stormy vistas,
Triptik detours, Burma Shaves,
cut-out blondes and jackrabbits,
cowboy mannequins, trading-post
warnings about baby rattlers,
knotty pine everything.
And soaring over it all,
the flying horsepower
of the Mobilgas red Pegasus.
Those rattlers, a dusty array
of plastic baby rattles in a cage,
casting doubt on our genuine arrowheads
carved by the braves themselves
and on our authentic fossils
and gold nuggets.
My mother saving for, planning
those neon-lit, root beer, carhop,
stalagtite-mines, wigwam weeks,
and my father, the only driver,
delivering us intact to all of it,
master of macadam.
Oh, to cruise once more with them
this singular street, they too singular,
to thank them for their ongoing gift –
my roadwise, wide-range awakening.
Ann Taylor is a Professor of English at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. where she teaches both literature and writing courses. She has written two books on college composition, academic and freelance essays, and a collection of personal essays, Watching Birds: Reflections on the Wing. Her first poetry book, The River Within, won first prize in the 2011 Cathlamet Poetry competition at Ravenna Press. A chapbook, Bound Each to Each, was published in 2013. Her collection, Héloïse and Abélard: the Exquisite Truth, published in 2018, is based on the twelfth-century story of their lives, and her most recent collection, Sortings, was published by Dos Madres Press, in June 2020. She is currently at work on a new collection of poems, called Taking Care.