The Calculus of Variations Holds

In late May the marine layer lets us down
But gently toward the summer, along wire
Stitching the coastal valleyswire that's gone
To hell, to bring us newsof small arms fire

As Dad puts on his helmet, and his gloves
Of cheap pigskin, rides into thin cold mist,
First counts his children'I'll be back, m' loves!'
Each of us inward smiles after he's kissed.

'The curve of a thrown ball, a light ray's path,
The way a wheat stalk bends in summer breeze,
Such calculations as I leave you with,
Are only half-complete,' he'd say, at ease.

We'd have to hide his .38 away
As we'd have to distract him from red wine,
To keep him healthy, while we went to play
In shady place with other children. Then

He'd feed the plants, but starve the wild birds
Forgetting to buy seed. He'd say, 'The bees
Are dwindling,' looking at his watch. 'Mere words
May fatten men. The hummingbirds we'll please

With sugary solutions in sunlight.'
'Good, sympathetic Mr. Pope,' the kids
Would say of Dad. We'd get into a fight
As innings ran on. All the other dads

Had 'hobbies,' as we called them then, but work
Did ever haul him off. Ah, he was missed
When we dragged our sad asses from the park,
Beat-up a bit, but smiling. To be kissed!

Should the old man suffer a flat, or turn
Back short of cash,should another high wind
Blow him, leaf-like, our way. 'You guys can learn
To read Lucretius while I'm gone.And mind

Your mother,' he'd inveigh, perched on a beam
In the half-finished 'tower,' where every year
The ospreys raised a brood. Chances were slim
He'd blow back any time soon, soothe our fear

As failure, dogging us, turned up the rent
And young ospreys screamed from a bulky nest
Of sticks. We never did fold up the tent
But waited hopeful. O we might be kissed!


Poems by Jamie Irons:

On Hearing, But Not Seeing, a Cardinal
A Second Reading of The Book of Tea
Celestial Mechanics and the I
Mowing the Field, I Spare Convolvulus,
Blue-Eyed Grass, Wild Iris, Wild Hyacinth
Spring Equinox Spent at Planned Parenthood
Fourteen Lines for Elijah by the Sea
Motion in Three-Space, Motion in the Plane
Beautiful River
Finding the Complex Roots of Unity
After the Shipwreck, Crawling Back to You
The Calculus of Variation Holds

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets