David J. Bauman
Of Bats and Brothers
In first grade I didn’t ride the bus,
but walked just up the alley past
the empty-eyed windows
of apartments that would come down
the next year, leaving an open lot
for kickball and Frisbee, grass to run the dog.
It was fire damage that did it,
and probably the flood of 72—
derelict and haunted with bats
that we used to trick by tossing stones
for them to dip and chase at dusk.
My brothers saw the smoke and each
tells a different story—who called
the fire company, who ran inside
to get the people out. It was a laundromat
in front and a candy store too. We saved
old soda bottles, wheeled them down
in our wagon in exchange for pennies.
They became town heroes, my combustible
brothers—suspended and kicked out of school,
arrested for sneaking booze into football games,
pulled over by police as beer bottles rolled
to the gutter, the boys’ hands up, reaching
for a one good story to explain it all.
It’s a baseball diamond now, the house gone,
the empty lot, now a playground. The street has been
swallowed in a horseshoe of buildings.
Three brothers have been replaced by sons
who keep mostly out of trouble.
Charlie’s moved a few blocks over
before the name change,
but the candy’s over a dollar now.
Still no need for the bus; the new home
just three blocks from the old alley,
Bats still dip for remembered stones,
and blindly seek their missing roosts
in the old abandoned rooms.
You Must Know Where to Look
. . . when you arrive with your lights on,
a part of the slow procession: there he’ll be
standing at a distance just off
the road, in camo cap catching a smoke,
his backhoe against the woods.
You might see him take his cap in hand
if you weren’t facing this fresh grave
he dug earlier in the week
when the call came.
No sweat, he’ll wait you out,
make sure the grave is filled, tidy up
the hump for the perpetual settling.
. . . when you arrive with your lights off,
weeks later and alone in this hour, back
to say a few words, to place your silk mums:
there, beyond the gray headstones,
back in the dark wings where
the green St. Augustine ends,
grows a brown berm,
a dirtpile refused
by all these graves.
It’s how the dead
claim their own space,
a levee against all
that looks to fill
Most days, St. Martin’s Cemetery
is a short-cut taken
from the pet-friendly apartments
on High Ridge Heights down to the Circle K,
an easy place to walk
and not curb the dog
since no one’s watching
but the dead.
But today is not most days
when the black hearse tires crunch slow
up the white gravel road
with Richard’s body.
Two days of good hard rain
since being back-hoed
and the grave’s hollow
has caved in on itself.
So the pallbearers must watch
their step across the spongy lawn
in shiny suits and Florsheims,
clop about on the makeshift plywood border
for footing, set to rest
the deep-blue coffin.
Still, now, somehow,
the 96 year-old body
of the one who brought the light,
the self-taught electrician
who once criss-crossed with wire
the attics and craw-spaces of High Ridge
the year the lights came on.
The pallbearers walk back
on broken glass
to the Forest Green
Pitched at a bright distance,
we are all eyes
on drier ground.
The Harp Shell / Genus Harpa
The general outline of these shells and the parallel
series of ribs stretched from spire to base
justify the names: Harpalis, Harparia,
Credited with grace of line and perfection of finish
befitting instruments of music. Combining color
harmonies unsurpassed symmetry
There is no door in a harp shell to shut the world
out when the mollusk would like to retire,
rest. There is not enough room inside
for the animal:
head, tentacles and crescent-shaped foot protrude.
When the body is withdrawn, breath is being
held. In Mauritius, net rakes at low
tide try to capture a harp
on sand. It runs on its sole foot to save itself. Back
to wall, it holds as much breath as possible.
Pressure to lip, part of the foot
may be cut off.
Calcareous transparent pink shell
powdery skin solely along its minute
The closest to a velvet ear you can be –
seaside among stones, near low tide.
in listening wait behind a veil –
foam, froth and spume.
The velvet, easily lifted and unwound,
will have you fall to pieces.