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JANUARY SIXTH, A POEM BY ANDREW SHIELDS

JANUARY SIXTH

 

Johnny's in the attic now, and the snow

has started to cover the skylight with the slightest

sound disappearing into silence.

A bare bulb shines on an unlabeled box—

a set of Pyrex tubes. He pulls one out,

looks through the still clean glass at all the dust

he's stirred up by digging around up here,

seeking nothing in particular

but whatever feeling he might find.

 

The air begins to summon back the Christmas

cough that laid him up till New Year's Day.

He pulls up the cord behind his Bauhaus lamp;

out comes a badge that someone must have worn

since he was a kid—or just held up

to the light to see one corner of the star

had broken off. And on the wall is Bogart—

what's the use of a man in a fedora

no one ever smiles to recall?

He used to dream of repartee, of friendships

that were beautiful enough to end.

 

There's a paisley cloth on Dad's old trunk,

and the lid only opens with a slippery effort

and a cut on his knuckle. Sucking a trace of blood,

he fingers a pair of old sandals it made

no sense to keep, all sentiment forgotten.

This dug-up life just barely feels like his.

Here's a set of guitar strings for the guitar

he'd never seriously played, then handed on

to Bob, who went off overseas and wrote

so many letters, all so long he never

read them, sending only postcards back.

 

When had he last recalled this model airplane?

In the basement, when he should've been in bed,

he'd slowly glued the balsa, piece by piece.

The smell of the glue had slowly overwhelmed

the smell of the wood; he'd gotten dizzy with it

and his lack of sleep, but kept on building.

It'd flown so often, breaking only once,

a simple enough repair—will it fly again?

He's a man in an attic shuffling through his stuff,

things forgotten, things he'll never remember;

he's throwing away his life while the snow falls

and the wind blows whichever way it blows.

 

            Revised February 2009, typed October 2010
 
Andrew Shields' debut full collection is out with Eyewear July 2015!
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