Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Fall 2007  Vol. 6 No. 2


Chris Abani
Victoria Chang
Michael Chitwood
Keith Ekiss
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc
Beth Ann Fennelly
Raza Ali Hasan
James Hoch
Cyan James
Julia Johnson
Larry Levis
Khaled Mattawa
Timothy O’Keefe
Catherine Pierce
Jon Pineda
John Poch
Austin Segrest
Louie Skipper
Ron Smith
Robert Thomas
Joshua Weiner
Lesley Wheeler
Charles Wright


From the Calderstones


“Anny ur-gar, bols, buns,” the rag and bone man spat.
The salt man, too, with barrow or horse, came
in an old brown coat so that their turnips and fat
might have some savor. He lived in the same
briny town and knew how tears preserve the dead,
how money is stained with sweat, how bland are the roots
that fatten underground. Salt can be mined
from caves in the Dungeon south of Liverpool
or evaporated from the tidal waters,
but three pounds of coal must burn for one pound
of salt to be boiled from the sea. Teach your daughters,
translate for your sons. It’s an incoherent sound,
the shout of the unshaven man in the dirty cap,
but he has what you need and he sells it cheap.


If he has what you need it won’t be cheap, so send
your canniest child to the greengrocer, and tell
him to wait til the shop is empty. It’s your job to tend
five starving bodies and the coupons will not fill
them. Some black market potatoes might stretch a bit
of meat a little further, some carrots, leeks,
or any wilted starchy roots that wait
beneath the counter. You feed them all, some weeks,
but put yourself to bed with a mug of hot
water and an Oxo cube. When your wild girl throws
the scouse out the window, pretending that the dog
has been sick, or when your melt-eyed boy who knows
better mixes the sugar, salt, and pepper, it
becomes your duty to beat them into appetites.


He has a red memory of the Calderstones,
a stone circle in the rain, no, under glass,
and quizzes the locals ’til we find them. Some
recollections have bones, gritty mass
that you could touch if they would let you. Others
are thin, a fog on the river that a prow
might cut through, only to perish or blur
again. Under those clouds, sandstone shows
everywhere: the back stoops, grooved from whetting
knives; the blushing cathedral, gothic on steroids;
the cliffs and banks washed bald in cold floods;
the sedimentary language we speak together;
and here, before us in untidy brush, where
six sandstone megaliths slouch in a ruddy ring. 

return to top