Jeffrey Clapp grew up in NH and resides in South Portland, ME, where he continues to practice the craft of poetry. His writing is colored by rural, small town experience and a passion for the musics of the American South.
CeDell and Fidel sat/stood
overlooking the Strait of Magellan,
pondering what had befallen
those two continents
before their time
After a bit, CeDell shifted
in his wheelchair
took up a table knife in his
clawed right hand
and began to slide it
along the strings of his guitar
A string of notes followed
Plangent and sad, they hung in the air
like a long line of lonely sea birds
Fidel stood quietly by
fingering a cigar he was about to light
staring into the same blue void
He listened intently
but it would be several years
before he spoke.
The red dog, whose hair
was thick as a caterpillar’s
was covered in bees
The old woman
stirred two leaves down the walk
with the worn end
of a broom
She never noticed
nor did the dog bark
THE LOST COUNTRY
Undulant hills with no distinguishing marks
Metal houses like boxcars stranded by the road
A MAGA sign nailed to a dilapidated garage
Block letters bleeding red down the dry siding
There’s usually a pickup on the gravel patch outside
But their beds rarely carry a load
You wonder where they drive for milk or go to school
And if the doctors are in hiding
In little Clapham, banners on the poles say “Welcome!”
“Welcome!” and “Welcome!” again—it’s a barrage
But the center never comes—no restaurant, no general store
And so we hit the gas and go on riding
Imagining meatloaf and apple pie a la mode
The lost country out ahead, our American mirage.
We drove through Pennsylvania.
The towns all had the same spent look,
the same asbestos siding gone some sour shade
of post-industrial soot.
We stopped over in Bethlehem to visit the Wailing Wall.
Its bricks were wrapped in weeds,
its cracks were oozing rust.
A damaged angel hung above in a flat blue summer sky.
Her legs were crossed most daintily
and fastened like a moth,
a dime store ballerina
pinned to a piece of cloth.
The factories raised their smoke-less stacks
to listen when she said:
"The jobs have gone. The fires are out.
The people have all fled."
With that, their hope was ended
(resignation took its place)
and the little dime store angel
vanished into space.
Wandering down an uncleared woods road
You think you see something move
In the tall grass—field mouse, garter snake, a toad
Or some bird gathering a fresh beak-load
Of dandelion seed to smooth
Its nest, built over this abandoned woods road
At avian heights so awesome, they’ve served to goad
Us humans into mounting higher places of our own, to sooth
The pain of being earth-bound as any toad
Heavy as Hampshire clay, a walking barrow load
Of gristle and bone, each planted footstep meant to groove
The path of this gone-to-brush woods road
With our plodding, derived from some ancestral mode
Of shifting place to place, so as not to lose
Choice food to rivals—though garter snake or toad
Will do at certain times, those lowly victuals nature stowed
Our predatory cravings to sooth
While marching down an apparently endless woods road
Studying anything that moves.