— for Jordan, Aran, Jacob and James.
The plan an hour, a saunter, low tide,
mist on skin, light in the air, Hunter Creek
and back, maybe some keeper stones:
one agate, smallest amber, knobbed, lucent,
thick as your thumb,
and this rounded heft in your palm –
basalt seamed by dirty white quartz
pocked like suet a bird’s been at,
this one all quartz, a matchbox aslant,
fracture lines like pin scratch,
and last this thinnest green, one side
dark as the inner pokey reaches of a shore pine,
the other marbled bright salmonberry –
four in all and none alike,
an hour’s coat-pocket abundance
sent with you in mind
from and for where memory lives
and what you imagine you see.
What Were You Thinking?
Strangers not strangers, all of us, the whole family,
we sit at a table, except that some of us are not born yet,
or we’re solo, or committed to others, but yes, I see
that table, the lamp and the light pooled under it –
infants, siblings, children become parents,
become aunts, become uncles, become and become,
and the table extensions number many more than four,
chairs unmatched, forks unknown to the tribe of the spoons.
Plates full. A hand holds a glass. What,
what were you thinking? – asked and answered,
shouts and laughter, vinegar, secrets and small beer,
old harms let go, and no one keeps track of the time.
Weekday evening, table cleared, my father nowhere in sight,
and we’re outside, my brother and me, as the phone rings,
and from the screen door our mother alive calls to us
your father’s on his way, which we can hardly believe –
meet him at the corner, she says, and tilts her head, Go on.
So, obedient as we were then, Bruce and I,
we run to that corner by a neighbor’s apple boughs
propped up with 2 x 4s, and we stand there
until an older convertible never seen by us before
stops a block away, top down, and it’s our father
driving one-handed, cigarette that will kill him,
face in an Elvis pout. We wave. He doesn’t.
Maybe he’ll just drive on, but he stops, and we clamor over
and in, keep going, we tell him, anywhere, we don’t care.
And he does, and when we get back – this I love –
his wife says to him, well, and, what have you done now?
Unlooked for, what memory gives –
Bobby Kennedy on a flatbed truck in the dark:
he says Martin Luther King has been shot in Memphis,
and that crowd gasps – but they listen to someone
whose brother was also killed by a white man.
And it is a difficult day, he says, a difficult time
for the United States. We can do well in this country, he says.
And one day my father’s used car filled with water,
top down in a downpour, the rest of us elsewhere,
while inside he napped on the couch.
Lex Runciman has published six books of poems, most recently Salt Moons: Poems 1981-2016, from Salmon Poetry (Ireland). An earlier volume won the Oregon Book Award. His work has appeared in such magazines as Poetry Ireland, Ploughshares, Whale Road Review, Hotel Amerika, and Stand. He lives in Portland, Oregon.