For months you've been here, hidden
by fallen dogwood, with termites winged
and blossoming in the air. What's left of you
shines beneath tangles of March light:
your rib cage a trellis for wildflowers
creeping toward heaven, your hind leg
cracked by the trap
once set yawning by the river your tongue loved.
The moon's curved flame
lit the lamp of the river and you came,
prodded by the wick of pure thirst.
Someone has clipped your skull off your body
like a rose, leaving you
to take on the color of starlight,
to fill with dandelions called up by your ruin.
Someone left you to be named and furred
by imagination. Someone knelt over and released you
from the long, steel kiss of your going.
Once, high in a tree, going
for the last winter oranges, I found
three dead hatchlings-- robins I thought.
Their bowl of twigs held cotton
from junked sofas, the foil
of Juicyfruit, and a red rubberband.
The birds were hard, their wings like old rubber,
their beaks still open.
Had I found them still in their blue shells,
like Easter candies, I would have watched them,
one by one, hit the cement below
like heavy balls of spit.
I was nine years old.
Somewhere, Penny, along this slab of river
where everything greens, you are long dead.
We named you after the copper hue
your eyes hoarded, like the pennies
in tiny trouser pockets I jingled to call you.
But your eyes tarnished as you went blind,
and you shook like a child
locked in a dark room. It was a Sunday,
We waited in the car, by the bridge
that has crumbled like you, and cursed our father
who hit you with a brick
and tossed your brown seven pounds
into the willows that hugged the bank.
I was long in coming back,
ignoring the Sunday light that called and called,
echoing over the years of tall grass
this light that flowers along the river
brooding in a cold bed of stones,
the river and the light your only willing witnesses
who know where you rest,
waiting for the rustle of coins.
Robert Vasquez was born in 1955 in Madera and grew up in Fresno. He is at work on an MFA at UC-Irvine. From "Piecework, 19 Fresno Poets" (Silver Skates Publishing, 1020 Santa Fe Ave., Albany, Calif.: $9.95; 221 pp.), edited by Jon Veinberg and Ernesto Trejo. ( 1987, Robert Vasquez, by permission).