On the Porch

On the Porch
by Michael McFee

A place between—inside and out, daylight
and darkness, gossip’s loose tongue
and groove of sleep. Around sunset, stomachs
sag heavy as the cane-bottom chairs
while ample rumps hug the thin banister,
every spine slumped in that familiar lull
of insects, anecdotes, and cigarettes.

If the boy could come back in fifteen years,
fresh-schooled and literary, he might
call it visor for the memory, and write:

“I remember this porch when I was only five,
mounting the rail like a dime ride
at the Park and, without a wooden neck
to press against, falling headfirst
onto the only stone of any dimension
in the entire block. Later, the collarbone
whole, I bolted down the front hall, sprung
the screen, tripped at the top of the stoop
and sailed away, folding my foolish arm
like a wing under me and snapping it
clean as a wishbone after Sunday dinner
when I hit the cracked concrete walk.

“And why I never fell from the steep roof
during cherry-picking time is a miracle,
when I crawled headlong out the attic window
and down into the sweet white branches,
beating the birds away, slipping
on rotten fruit and shingles,
stretched beyond my mother’s endurance
as she leaned, pale and arthritic,
against the woodpecked trunk below.

“I remember this, with its white pillars,
narthex to the temple of my life,
holy to me as Herbert’s Church-Porch.”

If the rest of the family could hear him
they’d cough, and hawk, and watch the street
for some relief, some lame hound or truck
bucking down the hill, some excuse to snort
and spit and stir, some reason to retreat
to the plain talk of hall and parlor.

     Plain Air, Poems
     University Presses of Florida, 1983

On the Porch