Poems December 2019
My brother’s antique bottles
You taught me to listen for the click
of pitchfork tines on buried glass, to scour stains
from bottles by shaking wet sand inside them,
to haggle with dealers in town for an extra quarter.
One November we pried up a skull near foundation stones
in the woods. You said it belonged to the Leather Man
who’d roamed Connecticut, sleeping in cellar holes
after his business failed and his fiancée left him.
Last August I buried an Old Crow whiskey bottle
with a jigger of your ashes where a banker summered out
the Depression and his farmer found truck tracks
around charred walls still smoking in snow.
I probed black mulch for the tell-tale click
of tines, pried up a skull-colored bottle of Florida Water
like the one above your bar—the one with the orange and clove-
scented tonic you believed could keep you young forever.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 38 Number 4, on page 37
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