Typically, mornings if the weather looks clear, I crawl up on the roof and write with a pot of coffee and a beach chair. There’s a feeling of exposure being up there, having nothing boxing me in or keeping me away from the edges. I watch the birds, and work until the blacktop’s too hot to walk across without any shoes.
On fogless days, there’s a pristine view of the
Casco Bay and its outlying
islands. The sailboats, the ferries and the cargo ships—all out and going since
dawn. And as I discovered from the roof’s vantage point just this last week, the sun
coming up over those waters is more brilliant and perfect than the idea of it.
Even at night, under the milky cataract of moonlight, there is something both serene and surreal that makes me feel removed. But also, invigorated; with energy that comes in on all sides.
I lost two poems off the roof today. The day after heavy rain and there is always a straggling current of air that smells like the stormy day before. I was lost in thought: thinking about how sensually hands shape to organic matter; how they can adjust in force or tenderness, as if they have a mind of their own....I was also listening to the wind blow over the cracked chimney next door, which naturally made the sound of a mouth whistling over a bottle. Two notes: simultaneously high and low.
It was during one of these tailwind gusts, a couple loose-leaf pages—unattached and shoved inside a book I opened too freely—danced right off the roof.
I sat there for a minute, still deciding what to do. I thought maybe it was a sign I wasn’t meant to keep those words permanent, and that I should perhaps move on to something else.
Finally I got up, close to the ledge and looked over.
One page had landed in a neighbor’s yard among their clutter of car parts and kid toys, and the other had landed on a second-story deck beneath a charcoal grill.
Since I was too embarrassed to knock on either door to ask if I could retrieve my poems, I chose to sneak around the building to the more accessible yard, hoping no one would see me or ask why I was trespassing, “For the likely story of a poem,” right?
As I located the piece of paper among a litter of other gutter remnants, I was startled by someone clearing their throat. Looking up to the porch behind me, all I could see was a pair of jeans and a partial eye peeking out from a foreground of tomato and pepper plants.
I waved my hand in greeting, holding the page over my head. “My poem flew off the roof,” I called out. “Just grabbing my poem.”
Instantly, I realized this could’ve been a pet parakeet I was referring to and I probably would’ve gotten the same response, which was:
“These tomatoes. I didn’t think they’d go, but they did. Now look at 'em.”
“They’re beautiful,” I agreed. “Must’ve of been all that rain we just got.”
The man behind the bushes then pointed out to a corner of yard now taken over by a forgotten swing set. “Used to have a garden, there.”
I tried to imagine it, as he moved away from the plants and the balcony so I could see his face. He had sad eyes, and he limped on the stairs.
He looked at me, then back to the wooden boxes full of healthy green vines. “Those are some tomatoes, huh?”
I nodded, and he seemed satisfied with this and went inside.
Walking down his driveway with poem in hand, I knew I wouldn’t be getting the other lost page back, because of what it might entail.
When I returned to the roof to finish my work, curiosity got the best of me and I took a look over to see if the page was still there on the deck beneath the grill.
I discovered that it wasn’t, and it was likely picked up by the residents of the house. I then wondered if they had decided it was trash and threw it out.
It was a short poem, written in a flash of thought. I know I won’t remember the exact words I used, so it’s already a forgotten poem. But I understand that more poems can be formed from even the faintest memory of verse. Just like the man who planted his tomato seeds remembering how he once had a fine garden of his own.
The Salvaged Poem
Stillness disquiets those who don’t,
or can’t possess it.
And so I walk,
as an act of observance:
A single broken wing,
lying fallen on the sidewalk—
entrancing, like a pretty girl
and a three-legged dog.
Someone calling out to “Redemptus!”
As the sculptor’s plaster splatters,
and the scent of vinegar
comes through a window.
All in a day’s scouring of corners.