3 poems — Cal Freeman

Discussing Escher’s “Puddle” with my Father

That your mind weren’t made of time and water, father.
A puddle in tire tracks, a reflection of shagged larches,
wet boot prints in the muck. It is strange, isn’t it,
the way we drive through ourselves each afternoon
without knowing it? You were talking about the end of history,

its fractal arced recursively through epochs. The Escher print
reminded you of the way the full moon looked in a copse of trees
in Rouge Park in West Detroit one night. The ambiguity
of the orb splayed by branches, was it midnight or high
noon? That the night would make somnambulists

of even the least strident of your cats, you cinched the blinds.
You played more piano and hung more replica art as the century
dragged on. “Dorian mode with its enigmatic major fourth
is music’s subjunctive mood,” you told me late one night
as the walnut castle clock beneath your favorite woodcut chimed.


Landscape with Yellow Birds
           after Paul Klee

The night’s ink leaves the pin oak iridescent.

A dying tamarack towers without sway,
as if the wind did not foretell strange seasons,

as if cataclysm did not have roots in comfort.

The white fronds are tentacles
of brutalized aquatic creatures.

An oak limb palms the alabaster moon.

That is Venus splotched haphazardly among the branches.

In this unmoored clerestory, a kind of grace—
loud neon in the night world,

ponderous life adrift, impossibility, not resilience.

The yellow birds don’t mob the cloud
that has been hunting in their lake all night.

Instead they perch where nothing forks
and refuse to face each other, hapless,

this way, to whatever is impending.


Epistle to Abraham Zapruder

Dear macadam concussed in Dealey Plaza,
dear vertigo on abutment at the foot
of the grassy knoll squinting through
the viewfinder of an 8 mm Bell and Howell,
dear churning hum of Kodochrome, frame 313
excised from Time, dear death shot skull,
dear entrance/exit wound pushing
back the shattered head, dear clothier
measuring stark garments, November
sun blading from a black Lincoln’s
hood, dear repeating dream of Time
Square booth with painted sign that reads:
See the president’s head explode,
dear “knoll” never to be used again in idyll
(your family left Ukraine during the Russian
Civil War; in New York you learned
our dark language in night school),
what has watching (was it perverse watching
after all?) taught us about history and death
that we feel something irrevocable was
lost (brain and bone fragments
on the widow’s sweater could not
be reattached)? As if at 1 pm Dallas
time they stopped
the heart massages and pronounced our death?


Cal Freeman’s writing has appeared in many journals including Commonweal, Hippocampus, The Journal, Thrush, Drunken Boat, and Southword. He is the recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature, The Ariel Poetry Prize, and The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes). He has also been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction. His first book of poems, Brother of Leaving, was published by Marick Press in 2014, and his manuscript, Heard Among the Windbreak, has just been selected for Eyewear Publishing’s Aviator Series.