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Disambiguation With Fire Trucks at Elsinore

One day, you’ll have died fat and happy,

bloated cheeks caked in make-up to animate your face;

there’s nothing vatic in saying this in future tense.

You’ve seen the confetti of shelled tickets

at the Northville Downs harness races,

that brand of faith in mud and whips

and numbers has mercifully fallen out of style.

My aunt says at three-score and ten it’s difficult

to reconcile time and place when I text her happy birthday.

She’s reading Shakespeare in Cross Village

beside Lake Michigan. I can hear doppler sirens elongated

by a quarter-mile of distance. A neighbor of a neighbor

says there are men high in the silver maples behind her house.

This has happened to her before. My wife saw a number 3

helium balloon in the woman’s tree today.

When one is mad we say out of their tree.

The synoptic gospels never had to invent anything

for Christ to do, but without that episode

at the wedding party in the book of John, I doubt

anyone would care as much. It’s the wine,

not the purgation or transubstantiation we hold

apocryphal and dear. My wife loves the elegant recursion

of the number 3, how it overtakes the civic mind.

A neighbor of a friend and neighbor

seems to be going mad. The neighborhood, solicitous

to a fault, hangs onto this digit so full of helium’s

ambitions. What gets restrained and wheeled away

is a who imbued with a buoyant mystery.

The fire department can’t seem to find

the men in the trees; it’s not for lack of vision.


Cal Freeman is the author of the books Poolside at the Dearborn Inn (R&R Press) and Fight Songs (Eyewear). His writing has appeared in many journals, including Verse Daily, The Citron Review, The Oxford American, The Poetry Review, The Moth, River Styx, Sugar House Review, Ninth Letter, and Hippocampus. He is a recipient of the Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes) and winner of Passages North's Neutrino Prize. He currently serves as music editor of The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review, and he teaches at Oakland University.

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