Poem for Adlai Stevenson and Yellow Jackets
By David Young
It's summer, 1956, in Maine, a camp resort
on Belgrade Lakes, and I am cleaning fish,
part of my job, along with luggage, firewood,
Sunday ice cream, waking everyone
by jogging around the island every morning
swinging a rattle I hold in front of me
to break the nightly spider threads.
Adlai Stevenson is being nominated,
but won't, again, beat Eisenhower,
sad fact I'm half aware of, steeped as I am
in Russian novels, bathing in the tea-
brown lake, startling a deer and chasing it by canoe
as it swims from the island to the mainland.
I'm good at cleaning fish: lake trout,
those beautiful deep swimmers, brown trout,
I can fillet them and take them to the cook
and the grateful fisherman may send a piece
back from his table to mine, a salute.
I clean in a swarm of yellow jackets,
sure they won't sting me, so they don't,
though they can't resist the fish, the slime,
the guts that drop into the bucket, they're mad
for meat, fresh death, they swarm around
whenever I work at this outdoor sink
with somebody's loving catch.
Later this summer we'll find their nest
and burn it one night with a blowtorch
applied to the entrance, the paper hotel
glowing with fire and smoke like a lantern,
full of the death-bees, hornets, whatever they are,
that drop like little coals
and an oily smoke that rolls through the trees
into the night of the last American summer
next to this one, 36 years away, to show me
time is a pomegranate, many-chambered,
nothing like what I thought.
I'm running late on everything tonight though it was a good day! I had a lovely long lunch with two friends at the cafe in Nordstrom, where we caught up on politics, musicals, family stuff, and various forms of fun, then I had to do a couple of chores in the mall and I stopped to do a Heatran raid so I didn't get home till after 5, right when Paul arrived, to feed our starving cats.
And then we decided to see 1917. I thought I was going to think that, after Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge, that it was another meaningful but violent war movie with actors I like. I had avoided reviews, so I didn't realize that it was filmed in long takes, which is so effective for propelling these events. Of the nominees, Mendes better win best director or I'm going to be really annoyed.
On the way in, we ran into a neighbor who gets CBS All Access who knows we're Trekkies, so we watched the first episode of Picard. It's neither as bad as the haters claim nor as good as the believers preach; it feels more like watching Xavier than Picard, but it's not boring. I could watch next week or not and be fine either way. Some winter flowers and outdoor color from Brookside Gardens: