On a muggy August night
soundtracked by cicada choruses
we speak in nods and murmurs
as the children cling,
sleep-warmed weights against our shoulders.
The sprinkler system stutters its hello.
Later with drinks on the patio
we say little, if only because so
little needs saying after such
a long journey. It’s as though
these shapes in their familiarity
crowd out the need for words:
the porch lights, the gas grill, the patio stones.
Here where we left them
are the trappings of our lives,
and if whatever’s buried
under still-gleaming covers and screens
is trying to proclaim some fated unknown
it goes unheard by travelers
only relieved to have been
reacquainted with their chosen surfaces.
Then again, even when we remain
we are always leaving, always saying
hello and goodbye to everything at once,
the furniture, the lawn that needs cutting,
the white incessant sun.
Strange to be under the weight
of a life and not to know
what in it is holding you in.
Around us in the low-hanging evening
the branches of the trees
lift and rustle and intermingle
as if instructing each other
in the secret revolutionary history of leaves,
as if the recalcitrant keepers
of a language of laments and breezes.
I remember my mother asking me
if I thought money grew on them.
I said no, it doesn’t. But tonight
I dream that it does.
I dream of crisp dollar bills
that bud and greenly flutter
and litter the autumn damp.
We rake the scattered money into piles
for the children to jump into,
then bag the bills and cart them
to the curb to be hauled away
and finally mulched or burned.
Of course, the occasional note
might escape our attention to float
over the fence to settle
in the neighbor’s swimming pool.
Here the unit of currency saturates.
Here the face of George Washington,
adrift in a puddle made spectral
by blurred underwater lights,
softens and widens as it stares
up at stars mostly hidden by haze,
scrap of paper floating
in a chlorinated blue
reminder of the faraway sea.
Tim DeJong grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and now teaches English at Baylor University. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Nomadic Journal, Kindred, Poydras Review, Common Ground Review, Forge, and other places. He lives in Waco, TX, with his wife Elizabeth and their children Edie and Gabriel.