Perry Oldham


I'm digging holes for three wilted saplings–
pin oak, mulberry, flowering crab–
behind a tract house reeking freshly sawn
boards in the heat of a July afternoon.
After 22 years in dorm rooms, the Air Force,
a string of roach-filled apartments and rent
houses, I am a home owner. Transparencies
swarming from my hat, I squat on my heels
among clods of red clay and green shoots of grass
then let myself unroll. I am forty.
In ten years I will be fifty and
this yard will be shaded. Now, the heat
is excruciating. The rumble of trucks
and cars floats over across rooftops
from the throughway. It is the Delta and I
am sprawling on my back in copper-colored
dirt after filling sandbags. Through the earth
I feel the kicks of an airstrike that goes on
a klick away. Choppers are wheeling
overhead like hornets. But this
is not a poem about the war.
I'm tired of it always being the war.
This is a poem about how, if I place
my head, that stick of a mulberry tree
in the shape of a Y shades my eyes from the sun.

Perry Oldham.