New poems by Roger Pfingston have appeared, or will appear, this year in I-70 Review, U.S. 1 Worksheets, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Dash, Passager and Front Range Review. He is the recipient of a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two PEN Syndicated Fiction Awards. A new chapbook, What’s Given, is available from Kattywompus Press.
Remembering Big Roger
Early fifties I was little Roger—
defined by age as well as size—
to big Roger’s bully-reign in the middle
of the block, his mother the woman
who threw firecrackers at us on Halloween.
In spite of his nature (like mother, like son?)
what I remember most is the shock of his
swollen face—the reddish glow of oral allergy
syndrome, or, as echoed by the neighborhood
voices, a mean case of the hives.
Transfixed by their sudden appearance
at the door as my friends and I passed by
on a June afternoon, we saw his mother
pushing him forward, one hand gripping
his arm, the other pinching his chin up
like another one of her Halloween tricks,
the moment I swore never again
would the skin of a peach touch my tongue
and throat, always thereafter the peeling away.
Though maybe—with seventy years of hindsight—
it was simply a warning of the anomalies dormant
in our own bodies as we turned and raced each other
to the sureness of the A&W, two blocks down
and across the street where the stools spun
between slurps of a root beer float.
Aberrantly warm, nearly December,
the moles still tease me with their
presence, unlike the seventeen-
year cicadas, their frenzy spent.
A steaming cup of tea in hand,
I leave the house and walk over
ground embossed by random
feeding, leading like a trail that I
follow as if they know the way
past the dying poplar, on out
to the fallen apple tree
whose roots gnarl up, still flowing
with sap, whose limbs still blossom,
then take the path into the woods
where two days ago,Thanksgiving,
I dumped the turkey carcass and all
its drippings at the base of a sycamore
for local creatures. Not a bone,
not a rancid piece of meat remains.
Back at the house my wife says, Well…?
All gone, I say, thinking, too, of our
friends the moles, busy gorging
on a surfeit of worms as well as
lighter fare, though here I confess
to wishful thinking: moles eating
the latent din of cicada nymphs,
a projected gift of sorts for the spring
of our sixtieth anniversary.