Two poems from David Tucker’s Raindogs
followed by a note on the author
The women of my childhood, my back-then heroes,
protectors, teachers, trailer-park wise, tough as rent,
long gone and still waiting for life to get better,
waiting in beat-up cars under slow red lights
in July, dusty stuffed animals
in the back window, animal crackers
strewn on the car seat, deep circles under red eyes.
They are bringing the sheets from the clothesline
after dark, they are walking to the barn before sunrise.
The milk pail squeaks as it swings from their hands,
but on the return trip it is heavy and silent.
They are dying of hard work and childbearing at 19,
they are waking with a yawn so tired you can hear it
halfway to town; husbands dead and the money gone,
they are tottering from the house trailer ready
for the night shift at the hospital. They are sewing
at dawn, they are mopping while feeding the child
who screams in the high chair and they are feeding
the grandchild in the high chair and the grandfather
on the deathbed, they are working at Pit Stop, Sonic,
the 7-Eleven, bus stations, and Piggly Wiggly,
they are changing bedpans, their names written
on shirt pockets. They are shelling peas
under the oak—it’s 99 degrees in the shade,
they are churning butter in the breezeway—
sweat rills their foreheads. They are waiting
in rattling cars under slow red lights, rubbing
their eyes, pressing fingers down on that ache
on the bridge of the nose. They are taking a deep
breath as the light over the road goes green.
The House of Old Age
The turning of the pages of a magazine
in the middle of a morning sends
waiting-room echoes through the quiet house,
echoes that are making us old.
The routines that hold us closer
and this sense that steady notice is being taken
of us somewhere now, this is making us old,
and the objects with us for so many years
the way they watch the changes to our skin
and voices, listening for repeated stories,
jokes heard before. The books that eye us and glance
sidelong at each other, the yawns declaring themselves
a little louder, and coffee being poured,
sounding harsher because the house is quieter
by degrees, all this makes us old.
And the weather that has been light
and blue for weeks is also making us old.
Years of love have made us old, lovemaking
in all our different beds and houses,
the painstaking care of children,
sleepless nights, work and promises
have made us old. I touch your hand
in the night, your sleeping face,
and we still make promises about the future
but smile about what we can’t stop.
Thin clouds skim across the moon.
Nights are cool with a little wind.
We leave the windows open
and more old age comes in.
David Tucker is a native Tennessean and a graduate of the University of Michigan where he studied under Donald Hall and Robert Hayden. His book, Late for Work, won the Bakeless Poetry Prize, selected by Philip Levine, and was published by Houghton Mifflin. He also won a national chapbook contest held by Slapering Hol Press, for Days When Nothing Happens. He was awarded a Witter Bynner Fellowship by the Library of Congress. Tucker’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines, including Ploughshares, Mississippi Review, Atlanta Review, Lascaux Review, Comstock Review, Narrative and Southern Humanities Review and has work forthcoming in several publications. Tucker has read twice at the Library of Congress. Ted Kooser selected two of his poems for American Life in Poetry. A career journalist, David was managing editor of The Star-Ledger newspaper, in charge of investigations.
Still Waiting first appeared as
Women of My Childhood in the Southern Humanities Review;
The House of Old Age first appeared in Ploughshares.