Issue 15 Feature Poet:
J. Marie Servansky
Barbara Buckman Strasko
The Fledgling Rag Live Issue
This issue features Lancaster County, Pennsylvania poets who have preveiously appeared in Fledgling Rag. On October 7 @ 7 pm, they will read the entire issue from beginning to end. All proceeds from this issue will go to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic.
The feeling that a particular place is suffused with memories, the specific focus of sacred and profane stories, and that the whole landscape is a congeries of such places, is what is meant by a local sense of the land.
Tobacco leaves hang from barn rafters:
long, stringy bats dangling from plain, wood beams.
A pair of horses trudge along the dirt road
dragging a cart between multitudes
of green corn ears dripping silk strings,
stalks so high, the man driving the horses can’t see
over the tassels shivering in the breeze.
Five brown and white cows by a wire fence
stand in mud and manure, twitch an ear, a tail.
Water in a cement trough glistens in the sunlight.
No telephone poles or wires frame the wooden house
at the edge of the fields. Clotheslines
crisscross the grass and dirt yard.
Gray, black and blue dresses, shirts and pants
flap before white washed walls
like bruises in the air.
A square, plastic crate cages a calf.
Someone’s veal-to-be. Broiled.
The calf lies there, eyes opening and closing.
Nearby, fresh tobacco grows in a narrow field,
leaves clumped together, wide,
stilled fan blades resting in the black, crumbling dirt.
A clapboard sign points tourists and locals
down the dirt road through the corn:
Fresh eggs. Homemade butter and pies.
I drive down the dirt
to buy a dozen eggs and a roll of Amish butter.
A woman saunters across the street,
says: “Yeah, sure, shine that
floodlight right in her eyes so she can’t see.
Nice going,” pretending
she’s talking to the woman walking next to her,
and not the cop who pulled me over.
They cross the street and go around
the two police cars and my pulled-over Prius.
“I ain’t afraid of no cops,” says the other,
but that’s all I hear.
They disappear down a side street.
The city cop gives me a ticket. In the rear-view
mirror I see another
on the corner with a rifle,
standing guard, as though this
downtown section of Lancaster City
is dangerous. No one else
walks by or opens a window.
Cars drive by. Ten blocks
away art galleries and restaurants
flash and sparkle with people, decorative
lights, the noise of crowds
and open windows entertaining
wanderers with money. Ten miles away
there are farms, a black horizon
of fields, fences, barns, house windows
lit by kerosene lanterns.
A man opens his door, sits on the cracked,
step of his front stoop, watching.
He rolls a cigarette, lights it, blows smoke
toward the cops as though to prove
it’s just tobacco.
A baseball cap hides his face.
He raises his middle finger to us all.
Crows are rarely silent.
Some mornings, though,
they just watch
from the bunker of a tree in full leaf
as I walk past. Today
as I hike around the cemetery lot, the only
in this neighborhood where I live along Bean Hill,
the chieftain of the flock,
as tall as a small headstone,
wings as wide as the width
of the graves I pass,
this chief of crows just watches
till I pass,
headed toward a copse of pines
sheltering Our Lady of Sorrows
circle, separate from the Cross of Christ
rectangular crop of more expensive graves.
this oil-slick colored, feathered, alpha crow,
flies in a widening circle above me,
calling to the others in those pines,
who answer, then rise,
fly off in a scattered mass,
perch in trees at the other end of the cemetery,
protesting my presence,
settling among the pine needles
to watch as I trespass
across hallowed ground.
I pass an old woman
by a grave, placing a bouquet
of lilies next to a headstone.
I try not to look
at the grief in her bowed back.
A beige pick-up waits for her
by the side of the road. The driver
tosses a cigarette butt out the window.
It smolders briefly on the asphalt.
I can hear my feet crunch tiny stones and dirt
as I turn down an unpaved side road,
past a granite St. Francis of Assisi,
toward my house, which is still,
after ten years, not quite home.
Scenes from Fledgling Rag Benefit Reading for the
Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic
October 7, 2015