April 5, 2016

Four Poems by Todd Outcalt: "Class Photos", "Antiques", "A Tree the Memory of a Tree", and "Passenger Pigeons"

Todd Outcalt is the author of thirty books in six languages, including Common Ground, Candles in the Dark, The Best Things in Life Are Free and Where in the World We Meet (his first poetry collection). His most recent poetry has been published in The Oklahoma Review, Rattle, Poetry Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Brownsburg, Indiana and enjoys kayaking, hiking and travel.


Class Photos

Some refuse to return from the dead
While others flame as unrequited love
Not all the teachers remembered by name

The one girl tanned in summer dress instead
Of bell-bottom jeans is now dreaming of
Retirement and cashing in her 401-K

The captain of the football team
Is bald and fat and imperially gray
As are his legions cutting down their nets

And the loose girl every boy’s dream
Is a four-time grandma on her way
To condo in Florida before she forgets

How young we were and promising
In those simple years of dance
When all our dreams were high as air

Implied as we stood our smiling rows to sing
In ignorance of some high romance
And the Kodachrome which kept us there



If one stares deeply enough into the centuries
The ghosts return to dine at table
Or sit in wicker rocking chairs to sew

Even the portraits gaze back in realities
Rich with mink or black sable
Dead long before their smiles could grow

The tiny tins and brittle toys
No longer hold their promise rusted out
The clocks unwound no longer chime

But we see in those photos the girls and boys
We used to know though we will doubt
Ours will fade like them or run out of time

A Tree the Memory of a Tree

They grew tall once as oak and sycamore
The pines egregious as any sin
None so old as the redwoods before
The Spanish arrived in a legion
Of pox to fell the cathedrals of ash

Only the eldest eyes could see
Through smoke and mirror to glimpse the stars
Their silver portents a mystery
Comforting the lost tribes dim powers
Exchanged for beads and promises

Some would know centuries before
That the forests would disappear
From the foundations of the earth’s floor
Vacant as the sky that binds us here

Passenger Pigeons
Once their numbers eclipsed the sun
When they flew by millions from field to field
The light gone out of them sported and killed
Great swarms of them falling to earth by the ton
How their blue feathers made a meal for hogs
Or could anyone seen their oblivion on the horizon
Blown bright pink at the barrel of a gun
Their extinction as easy as falling off logs
The last one at the Cincinnati Zoo
Martha was a spectacle of death
Betraying her millions in her final breath
Her fame higher than any bird ever flew
A century later not even her distant squab
Could die in numbers large enough to be macabre

~Todd Outcalt

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