Haven between the ghetto and mansions,
We know your floors, solid but bowing
like centennial splinters, and your resonant moans
from the weight of lovers, like caked twigs
of a sociable weaver’s dwelling.
We know your chambers.
We bleed in them, sweat in them,
cry in them, die in them
over daily calamities.
We sometimes lose
who we are in them.
We line your insides with luxurious skillets,
soaps, lamps, paints, four-legged things;
lie against the grain of your cypress planks
wondering how we’re meant to survive
or provide and, also,
realize our blessings.
No room is safe from darkness.
We feel imminent doubt lurking
in the corners of your soaring ceilings.
We’ve become the ghosts
we feel within your plaster walls,
fingering chalked bows of perdu cellos
as Florida rain strokes your pleated shingles.
Saturdays at Lake Baldwin Park
Huxley knows that all car rides lead
either to the park or hundreds of sweltering miles
along the turnpike, the interstate, back country roads.
We finally glide into place and I kill the car’s ignition.
He whines in anticipation, then hops
from the sand-ridden backseat of my car
and pulls me toward the closest park entrance.
As I lift the first latch, he dances
and the white tresses of his tail flit quickly.
I lift the second latch, and he is gone
as quickly as a gannet plunging headfirst into water.
Much of the park is shaded by tall oaks, palms,
and massive buttonwood trees,
all shrouded by Spanish moss that hangs and rustles
like party streamers left out and abandoned
before a summertime storm.
Roots run and crawl beneath the loose soil,
sometimes jabbing out above the surface
to form a small but treacherous range.
Sparse grass gives way to sand as I venture closer to the water.
The lake itself sometimes smells of squandered eggs
but also, somehow, sweet like the tang of a dying fruit tree.
When I close my eyes and truly inhale, it also smells of fresh rain.
Before I let him swim, I heave a muddied tennis ball,
and he dashes between shadows so his polychrome coat shines
in the flecks of sunlight filtering through the top canopy.
When he turns toward me, ball in mouth,
heaving and exultant, he is ready to swim.
The ladies with Great Danes often wear cargo shorts and raglan tees.
The young blokes with pit bulls often skip shoes altogether.
I prefer to wear anything stained or ripped—
the more unflattering, the better.
Slobber, fur, muck, sand, lake water.
Always scanning the horizon for alligators.
My favorite time to go is in the late afternoon,
when the wind is still warm
and the water is a blessed union of reds and oranges.
Huxley meets me in the clear shallow, still smelling of mud,
and leans his weight against my thigh to look out
toward the water as if searching for the sunset,
contented by a few hours spent outdoors
and the companionship of something other than two house cats
who will never understand him.