April 2013

Cellphone Chat with my Son in Ten Syllable Lines

I’ll call you back, I say to my one son,
there’s a scissortail in the flowerbed

and I’d like to watch him move for a while.
Don’t hang up, my son says, tell me about

the scissortail. In the Shenandoah
Valley I’m now, sixty miles from DC,

the pollution’s getting so I wonder
if it’s safe to drive this truck. I want to

see if the butterfly remembers which
yellow bloom he’s already landed on,

or if his memory’s bad like mine, I
say. He’s oblivious to me and flies by

my legs as if they are trunks on a tree.
I was following this guy, my son says.

He was pulling a wrecked car, an old Ford
he had sitting on this flat bed and he

hadn’t even tied it down. This insect’s
got a thin black straw he sticks down into

the center of a flower, I say. Steel
was flying off this car, hitting the road.

I kept my distance but something bounded
off the pavement and has cracked my windshield.

I think by being here I protect this
butterfly from the mouth of a hungry

bird, I say. He’s such an obvious meal,
but scanning the trees around I don’t see

a single bird. Four hundred dollars at
least, my son says, to replace the windshield,

and they’ll raise my insurance rates even
though it’s not my fault. I’m sorry, I say.

Are you sure it’s safe to drive? This bug swings
low sometimes down inside the plant, and his

wings are so broad he will almost get stuck.
Are you sure the wind pressure won’t push your

windshield in? Yeah, it’s all right. Happy dad’s day.
Same to you. Say hello to the grandkids.

How many more days to go before you
get back down here to Edinburg, I say.

I don’t know, he replies. I have no say.
The company owns and controls my life.

Wish I were young again, wish I were free
like you dad, retired; like that butterfly.

—Chuck Taylor

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