William Trowbridge was the last of the four poets Kristin Berkey-Abbott and I read for National Poetry Month (here are my review and hers). We called him up last Monday to talk about Fool and foolishness, humorous versus serious poetry, and why the Midwest produces so many poets, among other things, and got him to read some poems from Ship of Fool, too. Check out his website for a bio and links to all his books.
Do you remember I told you about the afternoon
in the coffeeshop, the heat another layer of white
laid across the stucco, the silver samovars lined up
on the shelf next to blue and yellow ceramic bowls,
the espresso machine hissing in the corner?
Distracted by so much warmth, I asked the girl
tending the register if I could draw the sheer
Roman shades partway down. And then
the man walked in, mobile phone at his ear,
hips sheathed in denim; white shirt off-setting
a burnished face, the grey hair at his temples.
He carried a gift bag swathed in ribbons. Outside,
tiger and spicebush swallowtails splayed open
their wings, circled, then rested on the white lilac.
The woman he was waiting for arrived.
They took the table farthest from the windows.
They held hands, they kissed. Birthday?
smiled the girl bringing cappuccinos and napkins.
The woman smoothed her dark brown hair.
Packing up my papers and my books and pens,
I peered at the sky. If it had rained right then
I might have gone out under the trees to be
like the lover and his lover, awash in that murmur
passing like a single flower between them.
Dear invisible hand scribing the surface
of this vinyl platter, you usher in a new
soundtrack: buzz of a black-throated warbler,
catbird’s brassy solo. All cool and nonchalant—
but underneath: the faltering notes of what
we want so much to say but can’t. Fluttering
skin, stroked by feathers. If I begged you to stay,
if I begged you to take me away? What then?
But I don’t. In the evenings, the crickets repeat
their two-note arias. Under the trees, fireflies
send stuttering messages across the dark.