Charles Cantrell

      Charles Cantrell, who teaches English at MATC, has poems in recent issues of Rattle, New Delta, and Buckle, with others forthcoming in The Montserrat Review and Yankee. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his chapbook Cicatrix will be published by Parallel Press in the fall of 2001.

 

AUTISTIC

Maybe he daydreams about women
in strapless dresses, drinking
margaritas beside flamingos at a bar.
If he fantasizes that he speaks,
most times he's as mute as the moon,
and mysterious to me as moonlight barely
lighting lovers' motions beneath a canopy
of everygreens where we walked one night.

What few woofs, ouches, or screams
he gives me are the major keys to his scale,
I could say the moon is a tattooed fool
and he wouldn't mind. I could say love
is something a crippled god left
battered and bleeding on the chimney's rim,
and he might blink fast.

I learned to love him, but he
won't even let me hug him.
Sometimes I think hate, pure as starlight,
lurks behind his silence.
If I apologize for yelling at him,
for putting his jacket on inside-out,
I may as well apologize to the moon,

apologize for the still hours when I'm reading
or writing and he's in the front room
making mime-like motions to the TV's light
behind women, mostly in bikinis.
Even without words, I'm guessing, desire,
with no apologies, pulls at flesh
in the still time when dream
water gets poured and stirred.

Charles Cantrell

*     *     *     *     *

FRANK'S VIOLIN

Before Frank died he willed his violin
to me. I can't play. He used to kiss
the violin when he had the urge,
but arthritis prevented good tunes

I remember Frank liked my poems,
even the weak ones. I feel that he knew more
than he let on about music and poems.
He told me, after his wife died,

looking at stars or moon on a cold night,
he would play on the back porch
until his hands stiffened – and notes, I imagine,
screeched barn owls silent.

Frank wanted to feel the song his wife
loved echo into the chill,
not be a martyr to her memory,
send music out there, even though no one there –

just cold bushes, rocks, trees, sky.
From kisses, from moisture, from my liking
to look at the violin, slightly warped,
and Frank, grateful that I cared,

and listened to my bad poems, I, too young
to know their sap ran no important juice
down a tree or moved anyone, though Frank
said Yes or Good or Read another one.

Charles Cantrell