Cal Freeman was born and raised in Detroit, MI. His poems have appeared in many journals including Southword, Berfrois, Commonweal, The Journal, and The Paris-American. His first book of poems, Brother of Leaving was published by Marick Press. His pamphlet, “Heard Among the Windbreak,” comes out this month with Eyewear Publishing (London). He currently lives in Dearborn, MI and teaches at Oakland University.
To be Sung at Lupercal
We took what we could
from the dandelion and burdock,
the thistles stung our hands,
the root tincture cleansed our livers,
the naked dead climbed from their
slumber and drowned out our music,
the stalks of our shadows
stood upright in the dust,
we who othered the abduction
long ago and called it winter.
The fallow ground, accordioned
by last year’s furrows, cratered
in and swallowed her, the flower-faced
one whose name in the month
of flowers, our hair adorned with hyacinth
and crocus, we do not speak.
That Little House of Long Ago
A lamp glowed mellow as a tallow flame in the dormer.
A raft of fog lowered over the river;
the banks and the river blurred in the heavy glass.
I remember a gap-toothed smile in a pocket mirror,
her mouth pursed and scabbed.
We did not become the window we looked out of;
each time it closed the wooden pane shrieked.
Our past is full of such hyperbole that
we sent imagined daughters out into the countryside,
forgetting their names and their stone-eyed, backward gazes.
Years later we watched them on the Doppler,
pin-sized echoes gathering the detritus of the plains
like funnel clouds. We kept photographs
in a mahogany chest that smelled of urine,
her grandmother’s alabaster face in a gilt frame.
Each throw pillow was an unpaid hour spent
living like a cat. Comfort would not spare us.
When we walk through the halls of even
the most benign institution,
we should think of violence.
Our bows, compasses, and quivers
are instruments as well as relics,
emblems of historical time and
time immemorial. This goes for that
specious institution nature,
whose tenuous halls lull us
into thinking our presence hasn’t
It arrived with nimbuses
pissing rain and scurf.
If there is poetry in waiting,
we will find it here,
in a tree stand halfway up
a sugar maple in Ludington,
Michigan, watching field mice hopping
through clumps of fallen leaves
on the dank forest floor.
I can always sense the big lake,
tens of miles off, even,
the crush and ache of glaciers,
the icy ache of bones.
An arrow to the spine will send
the legs into spasms it’s unclear
if the deer can feel, and
in such cases the coyotes
cannot come quick enough
to finish off what I could never
track and scavenge
with my crooked nose, my fickle
spleen and stomach.
But I am not shot through
with pain or hope or awe
or any of the other vagaries
this tribe of Artemis is chasing.
I rest above the forest listening
to raindrops dribbling through
Poetry is the torpor
of the hunt, a task for wolves
at gloaming, Actaeon’s mute
knowledge carried off in the maws
of dutiful dogs.
“Anything?” my cousin asks,
as I glass the woods
with cheap binoculars.
I shake my head no.