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Dawn Potter: First of July (Corrected Version)

6 a.m. 

I’ve been up since five, stacking clean dishes,
carrying coffee to Tom, who is climbing into his
Carhartts and work boots, who is making his lunch,
who is gathering his tools, as I lug his filthy yesterday
shirts down to the washing machine, sweep his yesterday
sawdust up from the kitchen floor. Six a.m.
is work time: I step outside into the slant light

of summer morning, laden with laundry, my brain
ticking over what I need to do before I can allow myself
to sit down and write this poem . . . water the new
beans sprouting up beneath the trellis, scrub
last night’s soup off the stovetop, pick the last
few peas before sun swells them into starch . . .
The poem that I am not writing also swells, but, words:

please, murmur in your crib a moment longer.
Across the neighbor’s fence a dogwood tree flaunts
her bridal joy. I pin up the socks and underwear
and consider the depredations of groundhogs.
And now here comes the poem I am not writing, staggering
across the damp grass. The poem is biting off the carrot
tops and parsley leaves. The poem is scratching up

all of the bluebells I planted last fall. The kitchen floor
is as clean as my face, the tomato plants are shooting
toward heaven like Jack’s beanstalk, and the poem is fidgeting
in this still air that smells faintly of salt, in this sea-brine
early morning. She is wiping her nose on my apron,
she is stretching her arms to me, begging me to lift her up,
to kiss her wet fat face.

9 a.m.

All morning my bladder has been filling with ice tea,
its taut balloon holding steady, doing its job well,
but I’m happy now to let it off the hook.

Emptier, I sit on my front stoop in the sunshine.
Across the street a mockingbird spouts her one-liners,
and the mailman drinks a giant cup of coffee in his truck.

Probably he’s sorry he missed me—
he likes to say hello when I’m in the garden
weeding or squashing potato beetles.

“My man!” he shouts to the cat, and the cat smirks.
It is his job to be handsome and personable,
to quarrel with me all day long,

and he is an expert, my bladder is an expert,
and now the mailman has finished his coffee break
and is expertly unloading the Amazon boxes, a crow

has upstaged the mockingbird, a bee has mistaken my skirt
for an amazing once-in-a-lifetime flower.
This sun is so hot. It is a star in the prime of its life,

it’s doing such great work up there in the sky,
striving to burn my shoulders, luring the bean seeds
out of the ground; and all praise to my brain,

lazy and busy at the same time: look at those synapses go,
sparking like some mad science project!—
All I need is a bolt of lightning and a castle,

all I need is this paper and this terrible dull pencil,
the work pours out of me,
the work is the shout.


I’m in a hurry to get back to writing
and that is why I burn the quesadilla

why the kitchen fills with smoke	why it
lingers in the air like a jazz singer’s

scarf slipping from her shoulder

3 p.m.

A few hours ago the sweet-pea vine swooning over my front handrail
was filled with bees, but now they have vanished,
off to suck sweetness from some other bloom—
lilies, roses, the thyme flowing over the paving stones.

The sun is hot, too close to zenith for pleasure, yet already
the afternoon is creeping forward, shadows patching grass
and the silent street. I think I am the only person home
on this block, the only person without better things to do.

Earlier today my father, over the phone, referred to my son’s
new kitten as a boy toy, and I laughed and laughed—
those words out of his mouth so silly and strange.
I guess it’s been a cat-joke kind of day, for now, from nowhere,

my white Siamese materializes. He flops himself down
on the driveway. He yawns seductively: he is like a film star,
like Montgomery Clift, all eye-candy hips and come-hither stare.
Yet now the shadows are patching the grass

and I am tired of seeing the funny side. I would like
to lay myself on a couch in a dim and airy room and do nothing
but listen to the empty street, the faraway slam of a car door.
Even the birds are resting, even the babies.

A small wind stirs the maples.
Even the past is closing its eyes.

6 p.m.

The days are long at this time of year, though graying skies 
blunt the light. We need rain, and I am longing for it.
The soil is dry, dry, no matter how much water
I pour into the earth. Every evening, as I cut cilantro
and pull leeks, I remember again how impossible it is
to protect what I love. 

An hour ago I dropped Tom off at the airport: he’s going
to Chicago to spend a long weekend with our son, and I
am spending a long weekend with myself,
alone with this sprawling garden, this cat, these books,
my tap-dancing brain.

It’s strange to be huddled in my twilit study at this time of day,
writing a poem instead of rinsing lettuce, chopping herbs,
shelling peas. My room is stuffy. Summer heat wraps me like a shroud.
Outside a breeze is picking up. Across the fence a man

and a woman murmur on their porch.
Now he is plucking at his hair, and she is laughing, as if maybe
he’s got twigs stuck in it, or glue. I feel a little lonely,

with no comfortable man next to me to laugh at—
just a cat hogging my chair, and this poem chugging 

clumsily toward silence. I wonder how it will end.

I wonder if the ending matters.

9 p.m.

The neighborhood orb is lit up, which is a surprise,
because it’s been dark since cold Epiphany.
The orb is supposed to be a Christmas decoration
and it hangs by some kind of pulley contraption
from a high branch of a Norway maple that lives
across the street and beyond the fence. By day
the orb is a porcupine blob of wiring, but now,
on this high summer evening, it shimmers
against the green dusk like a magnificent blossom—
red and gold, glittering, gently swaying in the heavy air.
“A green thought in a green shade.” 
Marvell’s line comes to mind, and I know
his image makes no sense in this context
but in the land of poems everything
talks to everything else, and writing poems
seems to be the only thing my brain wants
to accomplish tonight.
Which is to say I should probably
pay more attention to whatever
loud animal is rustling around
under the black walnut tree.
Skunk or possum? Raccoon or groundhog?
All are regulars at this time of night,
though it also might be Jack, the cat at No. 36,
a mayoral sort, with a civil servant’s stride,
who is not above tangling with a skunk
who hasn’t paid his property taxes.
I’m sitting outside, half-screened by a forest
of garlic . . . which makes me think that
perhaps now is a more appropriate
moment to insert “a green thought
in a green shade,” because this garlic crop
is grandiose and ought to have an epigraph.
As should these mosquitoes that have discovered me.
But I can’t think of a mosquito ode,
so I’ll run away and leave night to its mysteries.
Tom is in the air, high over Pennsylvania
or New York, and I am not used to being
awake, in the dark, alone. I’m not
very good at it, which is a shame,
given those pink streaks in the sky
behind the steeple of the Congregational
church, given those silhouetted gulls 
flying toward the estuary. The orb, too.
If I were a giant night-flitting hummingbird,
I would love you so much, glowing orb.
I would think only of you.

Dawn Potter’s many books include Accidental Hymns (Deerbrook 2022). She lives in Maine.

Dawn Potter

2 comments on “Dawn Potter: First of July (Corrected Version)

  1. Rick Kunz
    July 27, 2022

    What a change from your last!
    If your poems are a window, that was dark and curtained.
    This, wide open, sea breeze flowing the magic through; great imagery, lovely details,
    stories spilling out around the edges.
    That wonderful, tracing brain of yours back firing on all cylinders.
    And the last stanza!
    Reminds me of the 9th’s Ode to Joy.
    It bursts from the page revealing you in a good (and green) place


    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on July 11, 2022 by in Opinion Leaders.

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