by Robert Eastwood Concord Airport, CA.
She sits, restored, on tarmac,
a squat, ponderous bird in California sun.
Old men, the stooped gray,
waver into line, peer up into her bay.
Aboard, they balance & crouch.
They mull dark interiors.
Oppresive night, with cramps,
climb to buckle in radial thunder,
blood-red lights, throttled fire,
taxi into wet wind.
They thread the old bird,
a docile brood, touch once more her skin.
They tune to chirruped frequencies.
Blood-spray over yellow tanks, breeches’
rain, plink of casings.
For others flak torments air, the wings.
Some know shrieks, pissed thighs, blue ice whistling by.
She proffers decaled cups, an old wife,
tee-shirts emblazoned Liberator.
Liberator watercolors in shiny slip-covers.
Liberator wares spread on a folding table
beneath a sheltering wing,
No one buys. A wizened captain
collects a toll, remembering
how he counted missions.
and missing crews.
Griffith Observatory, L.A.
Ask Stephen King or R. L. Stine,
a ghost story begins with sun
through a window, & lilt
of friendly voices. No Ravens. No dread.
That rises gradual as smoke from the light.
In ’44, Dad worked for Lockheed,
& each evening he drove home smelling
of machine oil, his ’36 Buick’s muffler
bellowing at the climb up North Verdugo Road.
One Sunday, a man knocked at our door
with a woman, & a boy––a boy a bit older than me.
A childhood buddy of Dad’s, the man seemed older.
He’d driven his family from Kansas,
hoped for a job at Dad’s aircraft plant.
Mom had been ready for them.
We crammed in the Buick
& drove to Griffith Park for a picnic.
After egg salad sandwiches & iced tea,
Dad took us up the hill to the observatory.
On the parapet, the Kansas family gaped
at L. A.’s city hall & Hollywood below us.
The Kansas boy owned a telescope,
shiny silver, sliding out & in of itself,
& we picked out Grauman’s,
& corridors of famous boulevards.
I looked through the magical scope
at the larger world, so clear that afternoon
in warm breath of Santa Anas.
I could see webs of blue veins
on the boy’s hands, as though his skin
had been scoured. His eyes sparkled
like earrings mom wore some Sundays,
& he wore a corduroy jacket, even in the sun.
Before they drove off that evening,
the boy handed me his telescope.
Dad says he’ll get me a bigger one,
one that will reach the moon.
I thought, how lucky can a guy get!
Too soon I spied a far country
dividing the moving & the forever still.
Farther yet, as far as Kansas, a white, wasted body.
Diablo Lodge, Danville, CA
What will they do when we can’t stand
staring to the flag, when dogs ignore us?
(They bring dogs to lick fingers, dogs
with joyous eyes sense the strange
murk & don’t turn from our smell.
It clears with their tails. They cadge
hands that search for warmth, lift
boredom, a stew of Lysol & piss.)
Glossy doors sense me as I come,
they slip into shadows. Will it be years
flat screens flicker everywhere?
We circle like battered Conestogas,
all of us arrived to a barren place. Dreads
chatter in echoes, in deepening canyons.
Uncle followed, knee-deep, past gnarled elms,
splay-rooted sycamores, rocks like slabs
from torn graves.
We sloshed on testy feet,
our pants rolled to the groin.
He’d hardly noticed me,
but now, at twelve, I felt chosen,
taken for a wade in Redtop creek.
Perhaps he’d open up his mysteries,
his time on Leyte, the malarial shakes,
his ringed, turtle eyes.
He went ahead, energetically, calves balled
as fists, stone to stone.
I dragged through water toward shore.
“Hey general,” he called
from a canted rock, “no cameras there.”
Where he thought we were
that humid afternoon I couldn’t say.
Shadows concealed his face.
I’ve forgotten how it ended.
The puzzlement I do remember,
my standing mute as he drifted off upstream.
Long after, I opened a tattered Life
in an old book store. There, the photo
taken one October day in ‘44: MacArthur,
shades like locusts’ eyes, strides knee-deep––
the resolute old egotist’s ample khakis
cling to his knees,
his cold cob pipe.
Soldiers perch above on a grounded barge,
watching as he & his brood of officers
clamor through shallows toward shore,
past sycophants, the Graflex wielders,
& a placid audience of palms.
Santa Monica Cancer Center, CA
“…and in this moment, like a swift intake of breath,
the rain came.”
––Truman Capote: Other Voices Other Rooms
He enters smiling, though the room is frigid.
Invasive creatures detest the cold.
Somewhere inside his body are monsters
that repulse a caress, a warm hand.
Attitude is an oily sop for recovery.
Just one of several he’s been slathered with.
A pixilated screen lulls the seated,
on and on: a soft susurrus on tropical sands,
a pristine sky’s royal blues, boundlessly
smothering a teal-feathered sea.
Recurring murmurs, faint cloudlets of breath,
sighs out of faces that have an open stare,
and yet, other sounds––palm fronds’
dry rustle, froth’s liquid fret as it slips to the sea.
Or are they rain’s persistent pelt at the windows,
hopeful trills of the runnels? About the Author:Robert Eastwood’s work has appeared widely, most recently in The Bird’s Thumb, Up The Staircase Quarterly, The Peacock Journal, Steel Toe Review, Halfway Down The Stairs, Spry Literary Journal, Naugatuck River Review, 3Elements Review, Poet Lore, and Triggerfish Critical Review. His chapbooks are The Welkin Gate, Over Plainsong, and Night of the Moth, by Small Poetry Press. His book Snare: was published in 2016 by Broadstone Books. His second book, Romer, is forthcoming in August from Etruscan Press. He is Vice-President of the Ina Coolbrith Circle, a nearly century-old group fostering poetry founded by the first Poet Laureate of California.