A Coop on the Dogtown Road

Brendan Galvin

There are days when I know
if I could lay down crossties and rails
all the way out the peninsula, I’d go, passing
Taylorville and the Shag Rocks, then into
memory to that reclaimed henhouse
on the Dogtown road. Maybe in a time
slower than now I might learn your patience,
Asberry, and not panic at my misplaced
password list. Your coop might shine again
with a fresh coat of sun-baked white, crow-shadow
crossed, its door open on flawless October
blue and gold, if it hasn’t been supplanted
by a summer home the size of Penn Station.Without punching in any codes
I’m over the threshold to see you lift
a piece of the white cedar you chunked
out of a swamp back of the cranberry bogs,
fondling it in thick fingers, testing for balance.
Light but densely grained, it will suffer
harder usage than heftier stock. There are days
when I want the smell of fresh shavings before
they’re fodder for the potbelly in the corner,
and the faint chicken ambience
of long ago, muted by paint cans shelved
on the walls, and back-puffs from the stove itself.What will it be today? You seem in no hurry.
A Canada goose half-finished, a snipe
or a whimbrel ready for the pouncing
of a stiff paintbrush? Telltale, humility,
meadow ox-eye—some of your birds
were as locally named as flowers. I can still
name them when I can’t recall my Jetpack
number, sleep number, Social Security.One of those drawknives on the wall
will round that cedar to a shape a jackknife
can incise primary feathers in, and a fluted tail.
You sit in a clutter of your own creation,
untroubled by the disorder you’ve made. Under
a corner’s spiderworks, from a box that says
Sun Ray Steel Wool, a mallard drake stares.I’m a grown man now, not the little Skeezix
who passed you wrenches when you lay under
your bug-shaped Ford, home after World War II,
but I don’t need to know my blood type, license plate,
VIN number on my car. I need something
to lay my hands on, Asberry. Sanding, priming,
blending. Maybe a rasp to take to the head
before it’s fitted, or to roughen the breast
so the paint won’t reflect water and sun, and spook
a flock. That’s how we’ll know this one’s for
a gunny bag instead of a dentist’s foyer. Tell me
whatever will help me lay hold of the day.

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Brendan Galvin is the author of seventeen poetry collections, including Habitat: New and Selected Poems, 1965–2005 (LSU Press), a finalist for the National Book Award. His Cape Cod crime novel, Wash-a-shores, is available on Amazon Kindle. “A Coop on the Dogtown Road” also appeared in Egg Island Almanac, a Crab Orchard Series award winner from Southern Illinois University Press, published last fall.


Volume 67, Number 2

Ithaca, New York

Cornell University

Editor: Michael Koch
Managing Editor: Heidi E. Marschner
Poetry Editor: Nancy Vieira Couto
Senior Editor: Joseph Martin

==EPOCH has been in continuous publication since 1947. The magazine is published by Cornell University, staffed by faculty and graduate students in the Department of English Program in Creative Writing, and edited by Michael Koch.

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