Blue / And My Country Loved Me

David Allan Cates

     Blue

 

Under a cupped-hand sky fifty feet 

over a quarry pool in the deep north 

of childhood—who in that vast middle 

is on your side? You want so much

so badly all you can do is jump. Falling, 

you watch iron ridges hump the horizon 

north to the arctic. Nothing ends, it seems. 

Yet halfway down over the depthless 

eye of water you understand: everything 

in your short life has. Crystal shatters

when you hit and comes together again

while you sink. You never felt a blue 

so cold or true and won’t again until you rise 

and gasp the sky. Some things you

don’t want stay with you, but this—

wherever water holds you—will too.

When I was a boy I loved my country  -- James Wright

 

And My Country Loved Me

 

The horses my god how

they could have crushed our feet and bit

our hands but only lipped 

sugar from our palms

and gaped to show tremendous

tongues—and the cats too

how they walked rail fences

pausing to sit on posts 

hunting mice in grass or snow—and sometimes 

it seemed the horses regarded the cats

and the cats regarded the horses

as I regarded them:

beautiful in blizzards or rain or heavy 

green sickening heat of July or cool

morning August fog, shadows 

and hooves I could feel 

through my mattress at night, eyes rolling

and steam rising from wet 

backs solid as the smell of the tack

that touched them hanging

in a darkened room. 

 

In boy dreams I’m their equal

still, their flesh mine—

pregnant Black Kitty again leaps 

from her box into my bed and scratches

my leg as she pushes out

the first of four kittens—or old Bob

with the broad back 

who quiets as I climb on and walks me 

to the pond where he twitches

flies and waits while I swim and fill

my stringer with bass, waits like a gray uncle

to take me home again. 

David Allan Cates’ collection of poetry, The Mysterious Location of Kyrgyzstan, was published by Satellite Press in April 2016. He is the author of five novels, most recently Tom Connor's Gift, winner of the 2015 Independent Book Publishers Books Award for best fiction in the Rocky Mountain west region.  He is the executive director of Missoula Medical Aid, a non-profit that does health care and health improvement projects in Honduras, and is a part-time teacher in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.