Sunday, October 4, 2015

"The Quiet Side Street" by David Baker

From David Baker's new book, Scavenger Loop (2015), "The Quiet Side Street" the ghostliness and permeability of selves beneath some hovering gaze, which is alternately ominous or consoling--marking this poem as part of our digital, panoptic age. Two very different kinds of homing in. In the first section, what is a "quiet side street" is also marked, in the speaker's awareness, by what happens "over there" beneath the surveillance of drones--which is not just "over there," but increasingly over here. In the second section, the poet explores the uncanny infolding of time and space, as the poem slips between the present--in which his father is aged and half-shade--and the past, in which the father is robust and carrying the speaker in his arms. Here, too, the sense of death is not far off. A remarkable poem for its dialogue between the personal and political, showing the permeability and frailty of our mortal, earthly flesh. (n.b. in the second section, the columns should be lined up perfectly, as they are in the original, but the formatting is not lining up properly. My apologies.)

The Quiet Side Street             by David Baker


                                                            where we live is lined

with dogwoods and maples
with old man’s beard

lined with many blue 
bins to recycle

                        things we cast away
                                                            from us and gladly

                        that’s how quiet
                                                            you can hear crickets
                        a hundred feet above
                                                            in a glister of

                        leaves leathery there
                                                            with dew or brushed moon

                        bees mumbling at a
                                                            hummingbird tube or

                        in spiked flowers of 
                                                            ivy crawling crazed

                        up the body of
each dying maple
                        when had you thought to
tell me      meanwhile

                        deer so still in the
                                                            folded woodruff
                        one hawk overhead
                                                            no one hears a thing

                        sometimes no one says
                                                            one thing until it’s 

                        too late here or there
                                                            we think we are fine

                        we are not as somewhere
                                                            in a room beneath

the clover meadow
a hand a joy-stick

guides the news      a drone
                                    unmanned far away

or quietly above us 
even now as we

call it homing in—


He walks back from the  window in half-shadow

a half-shade himself        who first called them shades
who people the place       bereft of long life

he comes back he feels    with the fingers of one

hand the soft hem bed’s   high edge to settle

back my father now         his bed his home or
we are walking now         he is walking carrying

me under starlight            under willows swept

with high wind crickets    two whippoorwills far

like two bells one bell      across the night hills

these long hills I am         so tired he thinks

                        I am sleeping who            peoples the night river
riffle of water here            over the newest stones

in the river all night          to the other side

okay he says at                 last or I say okay go

to sleep old man and        when you waken on
the other side I’ll              be there we’re there now

see our shadows where    they have been waiting 
as long as we’ve been here—