S. Brady Tucker


Your brushstrokes licked dryly at cheap canvas
in raspy, natural swipes; on brown and green Army
shirts stretched between boards--some obscure affront
to the precipitous mountains of the Wasatch Front.  The weeping
of your brush was nearly audible, one treacherous
vision of the world after another.  Your first painting
was cartoonishly symmetrical.  A row of hills like
the inverted udders of the sows you raised.  These unfinished
paintings left unfinished.  A legacy of un-harvested fruit,
an Indian Summer snowstorm, a B-2 flying in low, bringing with it
a modern nuclear dogma.  A field lingers, white with alkaline salt,
where the bones of a dinosaur wait, feet up and eyes rolling
in the back of their sockets.

What remains is a farmhouse, or church, rising from a bitter hillside;
it is buried in sharp snowdrifts.  There are buried plows and shredders
and combines under there.  Their metallic ears point to the empty sky
like cactus.  You are there, on the steps looking off, away
from the mountains west, at what remains of the frontier;
or maybe, at the last frozen crow, climbing up from the dead
barley and hay.  There are no sounds there.  No radio ever
whispered to the three sets of children growing all wildly different.
Who was there to remind you of the year?  Was it 1943 or 1945?
These numbers must have seemed alien--a gift from the future.
Maybe you are not looking, but listening, to the sound of
one million four-hundred thousand lost voices.

The questions remain the same.  How will this be written
to sound important, like the grey caribou is important,
or the trap-door spider?  Important like cheese, in soft
curds, stirring in stainless steel, tripping and burping
their way among milk solids.  Why purple?  Why make the sky
the color of granite, and the mountains the color of
my eye when that neighbor kid punched it.  The yellow too,
of a bruise, on the cloudbank.  It could have been anyone's
bruise color, but it felt like mine.  How could you keep
your back turned to that color, and the reaching, the way
the mountains reach for your shoulder, to touch you, saying
hey animal, that is my abdomen you stand on, or This bald patch
(you know, the one to the west of the Snake River) itches
like a mother-fucker.

Even on the porch, your hands are curled to the reins
of a horse, or to the huge ladle in the cheese factory,
or around the neck of a chicken.  The house behind
you seems empty.  Painted empty in moribund fascination,
painted empty among squadrons of children, empty
and hollow like a casket, and yes, there is a better metaphor
but I have seen that house you grew up in and it seemed
drafty and wet and empty, like a casket, the wooden kind
that lets one's remains leak out after only one week.  That
is why you stand out in the cold (November?) looking west,
away from the mountains, toward what remains of
the frontier, away from the house you were raised in, and
where you raised children, and where on some evenings
your wife would wash your aching feet--peeling off
the moldy boots, whispering Poor, poor Daddy from
the milking stool.

You stayed home, the only male left to listen to a silence
so profound it maddened the hounds, and the moose,
and pulled trees down in squealing ecstasy.  The white
of the snow seems dirty around the porch steps, as if
the world was set upon something else.  A river ran nearby, the
sound of it melting was morose and languid.  Are you listening
to it complain?  Your expression is one I have seen before -- it
is the blank expression that pursed your lips and wrinkled your brow
whenever you tried to solve the triangle peg puzzle that
Grandma gave you.  You laughed when I told you a peg was missing,
when I said it was impossible.  You said, "That remains to
be seen."

Now, when I look at this painting, I wonder what would
have happened if,
instead of looking west,
you had been looking down--
at what the color of soil
                                            looks like on canvas.

Previously published in American Diaspora

Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
Email: stucker@mailer.fsu.edu
Occupation: PhD Candidate at Florida State University
Publications: Lullwater Review, North American Review, Poetry Motel, Mississippi Review, Rhino, Southern Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, American Diaspora (2001, University of Iowa Press), Like Thunder (2002, University of Iowa Press), Clockpunchers (2003, Mammoth Books)

Current | Previous    Submit | Editors    Join | Donate    Links | Contact

Sundress Publications