In My Old West
A poem by Celeste Gainey
There were quail.
Each day, a line or two of them marching under their topknots
beneath the eucalyptus. And vultures –– buzzards
we called them, sweeping overhead.
Some poor animal's dead in the field, my mother might say,
then, call me in from the yard where I am crouched
on the blacktop –– watching
the quick beating of a lizard's heart.
My brother strings my life-size Davy Crockett doll
up on a eucalyptus branch, breaks its neck.
The hard plastic head smashed in.
Under the peeling trees
I dig a pool in the sand, get the hose,
fill it with water, run inside, pull on my bathing suit.
Rush back. The pool is dry.
My father has the eucalyptus felled.
They're too messy. Roots too shallow.
They might collapse on the house.
He rolls a green lawn over the sand.
The field next door becomes a big house with a big gate.
The lines of quail march into fog. Crows start coming.
First to the olive tree, then to the walnut –– sleek black
flapping, cawing into the day.
Celeste Gainey lives in Point Breeze and has had a long career lighting for film and architecture. Her chapbook, In the land of speculation and seismography, a runner-up for the Robin Becker Prize, was recently published by Seven Kitchens Press. Many writers featured in Chapter & Verse are guests of Prosody, produced by Jan Beatty and Ellen Wadey. Prosody airs every Saturday morning on 90.5 FM.