May 2002

R.J. McCaffery


R J McCaffery's first book of poetry, Chaos Theory and the Knuckleballer, a hand-bound, limited print, came out in 2000. When not restoring vintage 3-speed bicycles, he putters with several Web-related poetry projects, many under the aegis of Eye Dialect, which he edits. His poetry and essays have appeared in The Norton Anthology of Literature's Web site, Ploughshares, Crania, and The Alsop Review.

Anchor Ice 

Grows for reasons unknown in shallow seas,
some swift rivers. In beds of gelled muck
it forms around boulders and the sunk detritus
of the daylit world. Then rises, blimp lifting
objects from dark water. It says,
Look: here are starfish, a tire iron,
take also this trunk and your anchor.
What held you is gone. Goodbye,
Goodbye, Goodbye.



October 11th, 2001 

Wind shaken, whole-limb split and plunged,
branch long-crashed in earth.
Now hard, frost-backed, pecans
rustle underfoot. Dig in thumbnail as spade,
crush the frissive and rotten hull,
the four-lobed hull, its dust, rubber ash,
black talc—or lever, lift a crackle-split
and dig nails black rimmed into,
lifting open, airing
the smooth nut striped tigerish,
and further through wet laden skin slog
in and in and open: the kernel,
the seed meant to rest,
to bury and burrow, grow.
The meat, the brainy lobes, the heart:
the splintered sliver lip-lifted
and bitter, as the end of things.



Homo Ferus 

Are always children. But deer-child, sheep-child.
Netted, brought home, solitude stunted,
they lap water from pans, steal eggs,
pounce on frogs in the yard. Some are killed.
Some escape—are later caught in cabbage patches
happily munching. None found cities.

Where are the wise monkey-teachers from the charming stories?
Where the cuddly bears? The sly and loyal foxes?

In Kenya, a gazelle-child scurries four legged, growling
and day blind, his skin—dark pad packed on palm and toe.

In the Carpathians, a wolf-child learns a few words.
Always (even in her new pink dress with white bows)
craves rabbit blood. She has never laughed.
Her mother tries teaching her to smile, evenly.



First Snowfall in Maine 

From dead summer weeds and spider filaments,
ploughs are lifted, fitted to fleets of trucks.
Storm shrouded, they rumble: sparks struck
from their blades scraping pavement
are lost to dark churn as moldboards fold snow,
windrow. I hear the grate of their way,
and turn my numbed feet, wade from the road
and wait. They rockslide by, salting their wake.
I continue my walk to the house of a woman
I love, and I whisper the slant rhythms
our names make when joined. Whatever begins
this winter, in the math of my mouthings, be proven.




R.J. McCaffery: Poetry
Copyright 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 20The Cortland Review