Five Poems by Carl Boon

(Photo by Irving Kaufman/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

At Seventeen

At seventeen,
you wore a purple gown
and danced alone
to Tony Martin’s
“There’s No Tomorrow.”
You were too old for the boys,
too young for the men,
though all of them waited—
clumsy on the edge
of the gym floor.
Homecoming, October,
a Friday, as the suburbs
felt the season’s first frost.
What a time to have become
a woman, the war
stowed away
like a holiday suitcase,
your father, my grandfather,
waiting on the porch,
flicking ashes on the lawn
in the dark. Thin and wild,
you danced slowly,
certain of the world
at your fingertips.

My mother was three,
playing in the bedroom
with your nail polish, pink,
and your pearl barrettes.
She touched your silky things
with toddler’s hands
and went to the kitchen
for yellow cake
as the radio talked Korea
and Stalin, Cold War,
and Superman. The Yankees
won Game 3 that day
in the hard Bronx sun,
and the Series was all
but done. You came home
in an unknown car
in the shadows, willing
to dance forever.
But in your breast
the old dilemma
of responsibility and desire,
the old feud of love,
where ambition has no place.
With a certain grace
you fell asleep

and dreamed of New York
and professional men
with soft hands,
ballplayers targeting starlets,
and not the real stars
over Wadsworth, Ohio,
beyond the clouds
and the cooling weather.
Most dreams shatter
in the light of morning,
and our sole misfortune’s
time. The Fifties
became the Sixties,
and, quite suddenly,
too many things were known:
heroes’ deaths
and rock ‘n’ roll
and baseball
beneath the lights.
We didn’t grow up;
we just grew dumb
with unruly alliances
and sleeker cars
and more confrontations.

Seven Days and a Box

Seven days following
the death of my father,
I received his ashes at the door.
The funeral director—my age,
stocky with steak and beer—
noticed the Buckeye flag
propped in the foyer’s corner
and smiled. A smile in the time
of no smiles in that house, no
reason for anything but wondering.
I took the box slowly
to make the moment last.
I saw his Honda on the street.

In the yard, the sugar maples
cast their first yellows down,
bright against the sun
that had no business shining.
We spoke briefly of quarterbacks
and what it means to lose,
to come upon empty Sundays
with no flags, no going back,
no last-minute touchdowns.
As he descended the steps,
I had no idea how to turn.
The box was heavy on my wrist.

My Grandfather’s Garden

My grandfather’s garden
bears scars of the dead,
but it will be my home someday:

the kiwi trees he tilted up
when the Marmara wind
made us pause to remember
how to breathe,
the olives he gathered Decembers.

I shall go there, cross my legs,
and read the novels I can’t read now,
for I am nine and unpracticed
in the miseries and joys
of those I do not know.

Perhaps I’ll turn his square
of grape vines to a swing-set,
watch my children soar
while I simmer berries for jam,
moving often to the window.

In the mornings I’ll count the cars
on the village road going south,
recalling his hands in my hair.

Another Pleasure

Her father sits
with a chipped glass,
doubting all except
the rough pleasure
it gives his lips.
His daughter
moves through the room
beyond his counsel,
lost in the wonder
of men, the movement
of strange, rough hands
at her breasts.

How would it feel
to be touched,
to star suddenly
in some place
that’s always belonged
to strangers? To be
desired, told please do this
and I shall moan
and plant for you
a mandarin orange tree
near the sea?

His daughter’s begun
the predicted slide
from him. It happens
in an evening, an hour
with the city engaged
in politics and football,
his wife brewing
a second pot of coffee.
The kitchen’s
suddenly very small,
and he sees the rips
in his pajamas,
as if for the first time.

At a Muslim Funeral

The wind didn’t seem to matter
to the pines drenched in sun.

A cat wove among us,
went still on the mosque wall.

I didn’t know what to do
with my hands, my feet.

Women in scarves and men in dark,
denim jackets made plans,

knowing—as we all have—
that invincible end, the terrifying

sense of never again. No more
movies, no more songs, no more

meals on late-summer evenings.
This man enjoyed mornings

on a boat off the coast of Bodrum,
coffee in kitchens and cafes,

his daughters’ triumphs
and failures. He came here

when his friends died, shook hands
in the courtyard, and went home.

The imam said the Janazah,
the green-cloaked casket was carried

away, and two crows in the pines
called forth a song of peace.

We were not privy to the wailing
afterward for what never was.

Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. His poems have appeared in many magazines, including PositThe Maine Review, and Diagram. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.

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