Yesterday I spent not a moment up to my hocks
weeding under the hydrangeas, sages, and phlox,
like a bedding deer or a sitting duck for ticks!
Rainy Sunday, just jaunted down the lawn
to scoop the Times from the tarmac in its blue
polythene cocoon, sprint back to the door, and done.
But bathed and toweled, twenty hours past,
fingers skimming skin, the telling knurl
arrests attention, just a jot of rust,
a millimeter, maybe two, nose to tail,
already upended into my red stream
like a mallard in a pool ducking for milfoil
or a pup latched on a teat, and I — undressed,
distressed and uncoagulated, hunting a lamp
and tweezers, anxious for infections’ worst.
It’s harder than thrusting the camel through the needle’s
proverbial eye, getting the perfect squeeze
to remove without beheading the bastard beetle
with its whole head shoved in my vein’s brimming trough,
its energy wholly given to holding on —
the way I do to grief, far beyond enough.
You can lose your head in it — maybe a sort of greed,
too stuck into the painful gorging flow to stop.
But tick philosophy isn’t what I need.
More tweezing and squeezing, peroxide on the wound,
then watchful waiting, as they say in the doctor’s trade,
in case of the bullseye rash. I know I’ll find
a dozen other ticks before the summer’s through,
with daily inspections, mirror and reading glasses.
It’s the cost of country living. I wonder, do you
remember childhood asprawl, happy, in the wild grasses,
bushwacking through the brushland, thick in the thicket,
careless of all save mosquitoes, undefended, safe as houses?
Now it’s all incessant vigilance, miffed and leery
as Jack’s giantess hunting down the lethal bean
to banish small intruders from her aerie.
If you are someone God talks to
over the Maxwell House and cornflakes daily,
you won’t need words from me.
If your King James falls obediently open
and your finger alights on gospel
pruned just for you without aid of eyes,
you will think me querulous,
or alarmingly unconvincing and unconvinced,
a lighthouse perpetually semaphoring:
don’t come too near. Here there may be rocks and ruin.
Magnetic North is on the move.
Mercy may be a cauterizing blade.
What I am hallooing to your boat is,
what if the hand calms not the storm
but the fear? Hang on.
What makes us think we want to arrive
under the tree having seen all the unwrapped presents
in the closet?
I hope I die packed for a journey
without having figured anything out
not even the figurative prefigured. Up for grabs.
Rapt. Why should you listen to me?
I don’t know what home is
beyond that certain color in the hills
our car once went past but never stopped.
Jennifer M. Phillips is a much-published immigrant, gardener, grower of Bonsai, painter. Phillips grew up in upstate New York and has lived in New England, London, New Mexico, St. Louis, Rhode Island, & Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Her chapbooks: Sitting Safe In the Theatre of Electricity, and A Song of Ascents.