The Manchester Review
Gerald Dawe
Two Poems
print view

Leaving Philadelphia


A squirrel hops through snow,
its scraggly tail arched
and in a flash shoots thirty foot
up a tree and sits out on a limb,

unhurried, balanced, perfectly at home.
I hit the hay early and dream
myself back to the original ‘Cape Cod’
house-style, the new kids on the block

tear around this suburban lot,
the streams and the driveways.
The mailman scrunches to my door
with news of more downturn.


That year they moved in
and put the light on for the first time
upstairs and down, planted box-hedge
and fir, their only shelter, and drove

into the bedroom ceiling a wonderful fan,
like in Casablanca, but on these
ground hog days, ‘precipitation’ at so much,
the wind-chill factor abounds

by frozen lake and turn-pike,
and on the street of sleeping strangers,
where the sweeper clears the grates,
the sunny side of the earth turns over


Hard to tell from day to day
what the weather will bring –
the cloudy uncertain spring
or a full-on summer – we chat.

In the Foundation’s public gardens
kids play ball until they’re stopped
and stout American robins scuffle
in the stacked hedges just before bloom;

goaded turtles in a murky pond
dive for cover at the mock
ruin’s sculptured books,
Easter Island look-a-likes.


Landscape gardeners appear
with saws and lawn-mowers,
then, as they go, their backpacks hoover
up leaves, mulch ground in trailer-loads.

Yesterday was mid 90s?; today, clouds
low with thunder and rain, unmoved,
I thought of what that taxi man said
last year – ‘Like living under a lid’.

All over the bay the mizzle didn’t stop.
This time, let the storm really break,
rain pelt down and the gutters clear,
and we see, sure enough, the way things are.


Before we level off I take another look
at the naval yards, the cuts and inlets
of the jagged coast as we veer east
above the Atlantic’s cross-winds:

oil tankers, factory ships, containers
stacked high with everything for Canada,
the white waves cut up rough, the streeling
cusps of cloud that soon turn day into night.

All on board switch to home-life –
pillow talk, loving embrace, the restless sleep
of being so far up and taking time
over a movie you’d never watch below.


The long islands of coves and parks,
the fishing grounds and mariners’ bells
that ride the sea-lanes, as they’ve always done,
slip by quiet and undaunted villages

where SUVs sit in frosty driveways
and juggernauts search out hedgerows.
The few trawlers tied up at stone quays
are silent and still as you check

what time it is in the dark
and how long we’ve got to go,
in the stark waterfront apartments
plasma screens flicker even yet.