Two Poems — Daniel James Sundahl
TRANSPORTING URANIUM BY NIGHT
Medieval dark, the sun dollop gone down,
Prairie wind now hushed: ten hours
Of driving is enough to clarify or confound.
Test of logic: there are six sides to every
Question? Tired, you forget what you were
Thinking; tired you lean against the door-post;
Your face floats at the window mouthing a name.
West and south, wedges of light wash the cobalt
Blue-black sky, fall over the earth’s edge.
Someone you remember sleeps there, falls into
A dream opening like a white flower petal-by-petal,
Someone who dances barefoot along a garden path.
Truck in low, you shift up pedal down and push hard
Abstractedly discovering something more about yourself.
Cold glow of eyes in grass along the roadside.
What sensibility thrives there well-fed and sleek,
Glaring the length of the highway waiting in terrible
Vigilance holding its breath for another
Thump and scream, for another scrap lying wet?
You remember what we bring and give to our dead,
Push harder and wonder why you lack a sense of guilt.
THE ELECTIVE AFFINITIES, part ii
Like any man, I have a curious interest
In my neighbors, and they in me,
Wondering what obsession drives a man
To care so for his lawn, to mow so carefully
At angled gradients and never to allow
A blade of weed or dead leaf when fall comes.
My neighbor to the north, a farrower by trade
(When I grew up we called it raising hogs;
I don’t see how it’s changed; it smells
The same), prefers the hard raw nub survival,
A bit more of the local color, or a kind of
Trashing of the social contract, hogs being hogs.
His spaniel though is social and comes to call.
But to the point of this: my neighbor
Has a cut-out owl planted squarely in the middle
Of his garden, at least ten times the scale
Of any ordinary owl, boldly painted in something
Other than ordinary owl colors on plywood
Propped and braced by two-by-fours, a peeling
Gimcrack sitting there through spring and summer,
A bit faded now but with a lidless glare
From cartoon eyes fixed on me when I drive by.
What phenomenology of spirit drives a man
To so construct an owl ten times easily to scale?
What must the birds think? The occasional rabbit?
Woodchuck, possum, snake or chirring raccoon?
In a moment’s confab he asks me what I live for.
The purity of the moment, I say, the recognition
Of a measured line. He shoots one pant-leg,
Shucking the other down inside his wellington boot,
Hobnailed and arrogant, fetching his spaniel home.
Baptist? he asks; Catholic? Congregationalist?
There are words in my throat as he backs down
And out my driveway, clear phrases floating,
Singing from my hand waving good-bye:
I’m a dreamer, I sing, I read too much poetry.
Daniel James Sundahl is Emeritus Professor in English and American Studies at Hillsdale College where he taught for 32 1/2 years. He’s widely published both in this country and abroad. He and his wife have relocated from Michigan to South Carolina.