What I Say to You After Work: for Naomi It’s just a bad day, Darlin. There have been others before this and we’re still here, still breathing, still waking up in the morning to do it all over again. I know. I know it has to get better. It will. Let’s go for a walk and look at the maples in our neighborhood budding their fresh green leaves, shedding the whirlygigs with their veined helicopter wings. Let’s feel the warming spring Kansas breeze on our faces, let it tousle our hair like a busy mother’s touch. Let’s leave the smart phones and music players at home. Let’s talk out the frustrations and the humiliations and the fuckups. Let’s talk about planting flowers and tomatoes, playing guitars, grilling, inviting friends over, getting out of the house. Let’s stop at the corner where the redbud ignites against the greening grass. Let’s curse the dandelions but enjoy the yellow. Let’s give the bad day the attention it deserves, which, really, ain’t much. © 2019 by Shawn Pavey
It is a simple act,
the brewing of coffee in the chill
of a dark March morning.
My cheap automatic drip machine
belches and spits a grotesque sound
as pleasing as any cello concerto
or crow squawk,
making music to make me wake.
The sun will rise soon.
This sky will move from black to gray
and from the window of this low-rent,
I’ll see the three-story side of Queen City
TV & Appliance,
its top to bottom cracked wall anointed
with a healing concrete salve and stitched up
by two iron bars bolted into brick.
But now it is only a black slab in invisible decay
in the shadows of new monuments
straining up from downtown Charlotte streets,
scratching at the horizon with jagged spires of steel and glass
shiny like aluminum foil crowns
littering the sky like a playground.
Cars already begin to sputter by on the streets below.
A block away to the West, an ambulance siren screams,
dopplering around a corner.
Buses will soon lumber by
with their high pitched diesel moans and sighs,
short sharp squeals of air brake expulsions.
Ceiling creakings above me signify movement,
an unknown body staggering
into the consciousness of another day.
It is business a s usual:
a toilet flush,
a cascading of pressure-fed water through
a shower nozzle
bouncing off a metal tub.
The sun has risen, silently.
I somehow always expect to hear it creak and groan
in the well-worn motions of a task
so ancient and lasting
that maybe we don’t even notice the sounds;
the universe itself being such a well-oiled,
well-maintained cog works,
its machinations leaving us in a silence
we don’t even notice our own noisy bumbling
through the days and nights of our movement.
And remarkable even yet is the singing of birds,
pigeons and robins,
dingy with the dusts of city living.
Early morning light finds them perched on power lines
through which the juice of coffee makers and electric alarm clocks
flows in turbine generated currents.
The brick wall through my window begins to glow
as only orange and red cooked clay can,
vibrant and dull.
Coffee has brewed and I sip it slowly in new light
where somewhere away from this city
dogwood trees bloom fragrant, crucifix blossoms
and finches and towhees may sing sweeter songs
than the awkward soundings
of mocking birds on telephone lines
in the center of a rumbling city
yawning and cursing itself awake.
© 2008 by Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.
Little Big Star: for Alex Chilton (1950 – 2010)
“I never travel far without a little Big Star”
— Paul Westerberg of The Replacements in the song “Alex Chilton” on Pleased to Meet Me
All that mattered was the song, Alex,
the letters and the words
and those succulent poppy hooks.
We danced for you, Alex,
we learned diminished chords for you, Alex.
We bought your records.
We played them on our turntables
until the vinyl wore so thin
that light passed through the grooves
and it is that light that we miss, Alex,
but it shines on wax and gleams in bright
binary code like the light we drank from you –
our “Blue Moon” in darkness.
It will sustain us for now, Alex
until that next misfit unearths
a copy of “In the Street”
without a thing to do
except talk to you.
Previously published by PresentMagazine.com.
© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved.
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
~~ Miguel de Unamuno, “The Snowfall Is So Silent,” as translated by Robert Bly
We imagine ourselves atmospheric,
waiting for a thick covering of snow
that we know will come.
I build a fire.
We blanket ourselves before it,
fill our space with warmth –
these rooms from which we will see
white flakes fall from the gray sky
through the cold glass of windows
shut tight against the Kansas wind
that seems to seep, still, through
cracks and seams around frames, under doors.
It is like this in winter.
It is like this when skin
shivers at the touch of air
colder than water frozen in the ground.
We settle in, adjust to walls familiar
and worn, to furniture that holds our shape,
to the warmth of our blanketed bodies.
The tea kettle whistles,
steams the windows. Outside,
we could see our breath and imagine
ourselves as storm clouds
shedding snow crystals over the stubbled plains,
as snow clinging to the bare branches of maples,
to the needles and cones of pines,
coating browning lawns, covering
the sidewalks and the streets.
We imagine the quiet and imagine the snow,
imagine a day spent bundled up
in the warmth of each other,
hastening that which we know will come.
© 2010, Shawn Pavey. All rights reserved