THE THIRD WORD
by Calvin Ahlgren
Calyx was the word I couldn’t think of,
walking R. after lunch down to his car,
not long after I failed to unearth the name
of the neatly hanging cerise-headed blossoms
like folded love notes dangling underneath
a spring burst of fat-cheeked white camellias.
They’re called cyclamen, those clever blooms:
medieval Latin for the round tubers they sprout from.
Because pigs love to eat the bright brown knobs
they’re nicknamed sowbread in the English way.
Likewise French, Italian, Dutch: pain de pourceau,
pan porcino, varkensbrood. Those linguistic secrets
turned their grudging backs on my memory
until the evening sky shook off its armor.
Meanwhile all I got was curling mindweeds—
an image of fall persimmons, those orange baubles
hung from leafless branches by calyxes—
the selfsame leathery caps whose name came to me
long after noticing they resembled old brown bandages
adhering to treetop twigs. The word means husk
or pod. Appropriate to the husk of memory
that idiot-grinned at me when I tried to reclaim during lunch
the name of the painter Wayne Thiebaud.
My mind scampering over the freeway abstracts,
which I thought of when I saw R.’s monoprints,
with their sinewy arterial flow: the prints he brought
to show me, after lunch. The lunch and poems that so
relaxed me, my memory lay flat out and snored.
Three times in an hour’s space, what-the-foo.
Anomia—anomic aphasia, in full—is the word
for the condition that keeps me fondling familiar
shapes in my head when their names have gone night-nice.
It’s a comfort to realize that love doesn’t do that, hide
the name of the beloved. Or even require it:
her face stays on, aglow in the mind’s-eye light,
and the name chimes softly, soundlessly, deep in chambers
where it doesn’t matter how you summon the creature,
the being, inamorata,
the whatchmacallit you adore.
by Calvin Ahlgren
It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense
the next thing always belongs. —Richard Hugo
Once these August days cool off at sundown,
crickets row their jungle heartbeat everywhere,
sawing summer’s edges smooth. My whole body hears it,
every time a surprise;
a coming home.
While you sleep, what in you worries about the waking world?
Maybe the whole body, an antenna twiddling its knots.
Maybe the spirit, shy of its unending abode,
dips into the waters of woe
that flood this realm.
Maybe spirit shakes its skin then, the way dogs can,
adjusting fascia. Each time a tiny blooming.
All things blossom in their season.
The hat-faced flower I am
may be a stranger to me,
but it’s well known to somebody. Could be,
I’ll never meet that person, or all of those around the planet
who know and treasure me the way a truth lets joy into the soul.
Throw a stone into a pond, the ripples always crawl to some far shore,
no matter what they comb along the way.
When crickets swathe the dark with pulsing symphonies,
that surprise rebounds against the night world.
Earth inhaling, exhaling. When I hear it I believe
sometime I’ll understand.
Poised on the verge,
roots twined in no-time
ghost wings itchy in their sockets.
Sometimes I think the cricket sings
to show me how to soar inside
above that large and darkly shining landscape
of breath and breathing—
large being a dimension
with no foot touching
Calvin Ahlgren was born in Tennessee and migrated to Northern
California in the mid-1960s. He is a former print journalist, and his
creative writing has appeared in the West Marin Review, Blue Pen,
and Cease, Cows.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 10, Number 2
Copyright © 2015
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
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