Caleb Curtiss: “A Kind of Purple”


Huband Bridge

In a new pair of trail shoes, khaki
cargo shorts, and a white
crewneck adorned with black
lines that cross over one another
in a pattern not unlike the wet
marks a child’s finger will make
upon the thawing frost of a car
window, he veers from his path,
toward the canal’s steep bank, camera
in hand as he chases down
a seagull, of all things.

What he wants from all this
is anyone’s guess. Probably just
a picture: the bird
a placeholder for something
he still can’t name. See
the flowers that separate him
from the water? Hopeful yellow
somethings, tedious in the afternoon’s
dull light. Sprigs of preserved
lace, funereal and fragile. They mope
in the mud while the gull, feigning
flightlessness, steps past them.

Only after the man drops his camera
to the length of its strap, lets it lean
his body forward slightly, like
a millstone cut for beginners,
and takes up toward the docks,
will the rest of us,
birds and bench-sitters alike,
relax for long enough to feel
how the air has shifted in this poem.

Something that is not a tight
cluster of lilac blossoms—but
still, so like those that grew
from the slender bone structure
of a tree my father planted
in his front yard the spring
after he lost his eldest daughter—
drop their heads, bowing
to the pressure of their own
elaborate weight.

Caleb Curtiss has had poems appear in New England Review, Gettysburg Review, and Southern Review, and essays in The Rupture, Ninth Letter, and Denver Quarterly.

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