I was bored until I began rigging catastrophes: pitfalls,
tree snares, explosions. I dug a hole in the woods,
hoping that something would fall and snap a leg.
I shot at aerosol cans to burst the forest silence.
Shrapnel tore through ferns. Rodents fled along branches.
And the trees bored me because I’d climbed their gloom
to spy over our subdivision, rowed colonials, each the same
because a team of architects planned them that way:
decks too small for barbecue, monotonous shingles and brick.
Our colonial was the only blue one in the neighborhood,
a color I liked, but I wasn’t allowed to paint it with my father
when it needed a fresh coat. He didn’t trust me to brush
with caution and care, though he did let me watch while
he shot a squirrel with his BB gun one morning, a squirrel
that lived in our eaves. That’s when I gave up asking
for chores around our house, my father at work in his mask,
sanding and priming rough spots, creaming a pail of trim.
Instead, I walked back to the woods and filled a hole
with my body, became a collector of hints and atmosphere.
I hunted for incidents, turtles that slipped from the surface,
feral slinks near the fringe. Once I found a pile of tires
in a ditch, but when I dragged out a pair, I couldn’t find
a place for them, so I rolled them back to the mulch.
Those tires brimmed with water that only newts like,
and when I saw how the sun blinded their eyes, I stopped
meddling with tires and logs, vernal pools for the sleepers.
This was near Billington Pond, where a girl once fell
through the ice. She was trapped for an hour before her body
was pulled from its frozen zone. When her brain thawed,
she told about a vision she had, how everything she touched,
living or dead, spun into a string of light. I wanted to have
such a vision, to feel ice dazzle my eyes, a carboniferous
smell in my nose while I slept with the newts and salamanders.
The hole I’d dug held me still, like the hub of a bike wheel,
a trick that spins backwards. While inside, I was locked
in that girl’s eyes, her irises crisscrossed with wings.
This is what I meant earlier when I said catastrophe:
some trick art, some careful recording of nighthawk quips.
I still like to visit those woods near the colonial
that is no longer blue. The subdivision changed
and is perpetually changing: living tulips sent into exile,
ivy crawling the chimneys. A pile of junk is a kind of faith:
rotten deadfalls, tires that sink, so I’ll always go back
to visit the blue colonial and run my fingers over its paint,
knowing I lived inside it once, maybe three coats ago.
I look for depressions in the woods where I once dug holes
and climbed trees. I look for bike treads brailled
into the mud, an old thrill sculpting its chapter.
This is the place that keeps me frozen: temporary flowers,
dung-tinged fumes. I walk until I find remnants, shade,
a canopy for my sleep. I remember the trees by their shadows.
"Blue Colonial" is reprinted from Blue Colonial (The American Poetry Review/Copper Canyon Press, 2006).