THE BACKYARD

The smell of cut grass and sweat 

my tongue bitter with chemicals

inhaled airborne bug spray.

A pair of finches call 

and response in a rounded maple. 

Wind flips tree leaves upside down

waxy underbellies glint in sun 

and tall elms sparkle like champagne.

At times this gets violent.

Branches bend as easily as dune reeds

broad maple leaves invert like ghosts.

Magenta carmine and Louise Odier pink 

roses and yellow yarrow are the only flowers still in bloom.

But the daylilies, tall with bifurcated bracts and swollen buds,

will soon burst into palms of orange.

Two mylar balloons are caught in the oak tree’s crown

one red and heart-shaped, the other a minion in overalls.

Peaked roofs with dormers, skylights, and red brick chimneys

form this land’s border with the sky.

A siren sounds and my dog matches its wail with a lupus howl.

A finch calls to no response.

The wind moves the heat like a passed torch. 

Wisps of stratus clouds trail cumulus mounds

and the sky once eggshell blue turns milky ice. 

A pair of hornets kiss the tips of leaves and branches

a monarch whisks past with delicate efficiency. 

Looking, looking, for what?

Purple iris petals, now crisp and brown,

curl like withered hooks on spathes

veins dry as tissue, leaves fan like tines on a ravaged woodland crown.

The crows come and caw and chase a Cooper’s hawk out of a maple.

A sextet of wings beat and dip and swoop, pulling through the sky.

A bumblebee waddles onto the scene.

The ice cream truck drives by playing, You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

which is the saddest song it can possibly play

Please don’t take my sunshine away

begging please like they know 

they've no say in the matter,

their sunshine will go.

Squirrels race down a tree limb, one scurries up the trunk

the other sits in a fork and laughs

which makes my dog growl then bark then charge

full steam ahead at the tree trunk 

so the chattering squirrel jumps to the garage roof 

then to the neighbor’s yard 

and my dog lies down in the shade of a lilac bush.

He sticks his nose into the breeze and closes his eyes as he does.

His ears twist to cup the sound of a truck beeping as it backs up

his nostrils twitch at what the wind carries and blows.

By five pm the burning sun patches start to dapple

giving way to honeycomb splotches

that dance across the grass like jellyfish.

I see them through that thin layer of ocean

the one that twinkles in sunlight and mirrors the stars.

By six pm the splotches gather in the eastern corner of the yard 

and drench the lawn chair and hydrangea in yellow stage lights.

Leaves bounce in wind and the wooden fence

catches their shadows in a Rorschach puppet show. 

The finch stops calling and the air conditioners hum.

A firework bursts like dry bark snapping in sky.

As the sun sinks below the trees the drain pipe turns a periscope’s shadow

and the fence runs jagged like dog teeth.

The wind speaks in rustles and murmurs 

the crickets chirp and June bugs buzz. 

This continues.

Sound gives way to sound and images once bright in daylight begin to fade.

What’s known to be assumes a cornerless form 

first pale then gray then black and back to memory

as day recedes to night and lingers in chiaroscuro slices

lit by orange street lamps and backyard motion sensor lights.