Wild Quiet- Derek Kannemeyer

Mutt Spirituals

Ohoo, blares the blues hymn of the dog, who in his sweet gutturals of dog howls how he’s only a dog, but how he loves this language of the birds. Baying, Oh what it is to be a dog,
as the alley’s congregation of dogs ohoyahos amen.


Of Lucy, The Art Of Lightness, And Of Gravity

She stood in Gil’s backyard, under that apple tree
Gil’s parakeet once skedaddled to, & bet me she could kick her leg higher than I or any boy could. I was 16,
she was Gil’s step-cousin. New in town since the fall.
One of those first at everything blondes who tan gold in a day.
Filigreed with leaves, applauded by a bob of apples, she hiked high
her delicious thigh, that gleamed in the day’s
silk light as if she’d slicked it on her skirt, & toed at the fringes of the tree; gravely, lightly, she touched her lips to skin; she let her leg trawl
down. Okay, she said, now you, come on…
But I’d no idea what a come-on was—all pratfall
I was—all ache, & rawness—so I just kicked. I don’t recall, even,
grasping that my plant foot had flown up with: only the trees’
wheel; my back smacking the grass; my shoe loosed into a sun-daze
of sky, to roost where the marauder parrot had. As Lucy high
C’ed her delight, at what she’d not known she wanted: one dumb new friend to laugh with. I dreamed her once, shinnying in to let her gold legs loll; toeing & dangling my sneaker in a sway of fruit. Out on her merry
limb again! My model, my fledgling years, of how to fly or fall.


Whole Day Prayer

May there be a room, this room. May there be a bed,
left warm and rumpled; a cat, this cat—caressed, fed,
cooed to, stretched dozing on his quilt. May the sunlight
under the blinds catch a little lived-in dust; not much—
let it be a neat room, mostly, in a small, neat house.
Today, we will turn the key on it, and drive—
without hurry—stopping for mid-morning coffee.
How good the scones are. And the jam, home-made!
Let the tables be small, the talk untroubled—
just the music of mill and murmur—until we close
the door on it; away. To wind, and climb, and park
where there are no cars, only this rough trail through the trees. Until we are hiking high in the Virginia mountains.
Cloud shadow, the hover of a hawk, its contours tipped
to ride the thermals of a ridge. Or of blue-green flocks of ridges… Let it be a month of mildness and color, April or May, say—
the way, from the valleys to the tree line, whispering into bloom; or perhaps October, into a loveliness of decay—either would do; are we 25 or 60?—either might do. Well, no, too late for 25— and we lived such days at 25, let’s live one now at 60.
May we take our repose upon the sprawled rocks of an overlook, edging to peek over. And as we picnic, talk. How much
might we two have left to say? I say, let’s find out.
Look, see how wide the view is, spread below us?
So where now, what next, when?
Listen, almost anywhere might do. Right here, now, for one— perhaps even this one, warm room. We could enter it whole-selved; we could take its whole, slow day.


Wild Quiet

You’re ten or eleven, and you have this all-time favorite tree
no one knows how to find but you—
That your mother (if she did know)
would be so scared, and so scold and plead with you about
But it’s away in the scraggly summer woods behind the spring Where no one goes but the songbirds, and the night animals, and you And the deer, and that old owl with his great skull eyes,

who barks sometimes like a dog
And when you shinny up into it, panting a little,
Scraping your skin on its knots and gnarls of trunk—
Toward where the buntings burst up out, ceding you its crown— All the noise of you
So you work and you work your way a little higher—
Past where a branch bends a bit too hard under you,
with a thrill away of leaves, and a snapped flutter—
To your next perch, and its pause, to catch your breath—
Until the shoal-shivers of the wind
enter you wholly, and they whisper,
Welcome to the wild quiet of the sky—and you are monarch of it


Appetite Song

Say me some syllables for
their sound’s sake, to hear them voiced— how playground groups shout the score in funk-scat rhythms, fists hoist
in the air to punctuate:
Go, someone! Dibs has the floor! Please, Mother, may I some more?

Where Form fights its border war with Freedom, send breath to foist
on us in a blent sensate
hymn light’s battle yell—to roar
the Mongrel Both incarnate.
Drive, y’all! Gas, shift, mirror, floor! Please, feet, may I fly some more?

In food fights, the omnivore
fares best. (This squid’s big & moist, let’s hurl it!) On a blind date,
savor the whole joust & joist
of things. At the hop, gyrate.
Jive, loves, till we split the floor! Please, Sir, may june april more?

I’d rather—by all that’s boist- erous—crave all than else or nor—garden, wide world, & gate. Lungs, people! Roof, walls, & floor! Please, stars, may I burn some more?


About the contributor

Derek Kannemeyer was born in Cape Town, South Africa, raised in London, England, and has spent most of his adult life in Richmond, Virginia, USA, as a teacher of French and English. His writing has appeared in such publications as Fiction International, The Saint Ann’s Review, The New Virginia Review, Rattapallax, Smartish Pace, Rolling Stone, and many others.

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