Jeffrey Dye was educated at the University of California, Berkeley (A.B. 1965; M.A. 1967), and The Harvard Law School (J.D. 1973). His poetry has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Green Mountains Review, and The Threepenny Review, and is forthcoming in The Literary Review and The William & Mary Review. He has worked as a forest fire fighter, truck driver, airline passenger agent, baker, and teacher. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, West Africa. He presently practices law in Portland, Oregon.
Heaven We Are Denied
After an age
We come rapt with conceits
(Envies, fears, regrets, schemes),
Fouled in poorly scripted scenes
Of personal history
That we rehearse like prayer beads—
So we never learn.
We lack attention.
The genius served, if any,
Passes out the door with the plate,
After Friday beer or a forest run
I sometimes persuade myself
That if I could recover just once
The acuity of innocence,
Climb back into the sanctuary
Of a puzzle-patch sycamore
And preside over an onrush
Of cool September rain,
A sonnet wind slipping
The open-handed leaves
And heavy-headed grain,
If it were Iowa again,
If I could disappear
In pasture grass
And watch spiders
Do diligence in air
And not want anything,
Not fix on wrongs or broken ends,
I might relearn the lyre of this world—
Chase the snakes that bit me.
Find my way home. Maybe.
Boys. Just skinny boys. Rails
Awkward in suspendered trousers,
Then edgy against a sunny barn wall;
Suddenly harnessed to the Depression,
Learning to take a kick in the stomach;
Boys who studied to do as they were told,
Following the flag, offering up minds
And bodies with abandon so the right
Might cloud the rising sun, topple the Hun—
G. I. Patriots. Problematic fathers.
Back home they requisitioned T-shirts,
Butch haircuts, clean plates, hard work,
And no excuses.
Perverse. Numb to love.
Red-faced captains of company punishment
Quick to flare or freeze over,
To strike, reprove, scorn, brood,
Nailing our toes to marks set down by ghosts.
To this day—palsied hands on Bibles, waiting—
Have they made their own acquaintance?