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!