Between Walt’s scab and the corner
tobacconist is a purple plywood airplane
in someone’s backyard and three brushstrokes
by de Kooning circa 1983, a single day
turned into ribbons of red and blue, the blue
now and then scraped down to white
or a shadow of buried yellow,
morning in Springs. Or morning in Morgantown,
where Joni Mitchell spent a season
listing reasons to leave until his
name appeared on the page (shh: Jackson Browne).
Who else is buried at Springs?
Walt fell while being chased on the playground
and keeps losing his Band-Aid,
which is like breathing heat into cupped
hands until you’re dizzy and spinning
in flurries at afternoon’s end.
De Kooning forgot his name
but not the moment his wrist should turn
and end the stroke, the easing of
pressure as the brush softened
to air and a few bristles then nothing,
though he stood there for hours so full
of forgetting the canvas began
to dry. Walt says, “One more Band-Aid, please”
as Amanda dabs Neosporin with a finger,
now smudging with her thumb
to keep the scab from cracking, from
starting to bleed again. I’m off
to the corner for more Band-Aids and
cigarettes, and to see if anyone’s
won the Lotto. What to whistle
when the weather calls for “Je te veux”
but all I’ve got on my iPod is
If You’re Feeling Sinister? Oh, well (shrug):
“Like Dylan in the Movies.” Good enough.
James Harms is the author of seven books of poetry including Comet Scar, to be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2011. He is a recipient of an nea fellowship, the pen/Revson fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, among other honors. A Professor of English at West Virginia University, he also directs the low-residency mfa program in poetry at New England College.