November 25, 2014

David Cavanagh


In 1991 he was found inside a glacier of the Alps. Seems he had been out walking. An x-ray found an arrowhead in his back. He was 5,300 years old.

If he had known his stroll by an alpine lake
would be his last, how the arrow 
from behind would thud into his daydream, 
how the lake would claim him, harden,

how anthropologists would pore over
his Neolithic self the way his own kin
hovered with stone knives over a kill,
ready to skin, dismember, eat …

If he were fast-tracked five millennia, 
would he say, what are you looking at,
what do you want to know, where fire 
comes from? Or, hey, where can I 

get some of those sneakers? Or, I am 
no source, I am an omen. The way one 
of us, blindsided, mangled by a muscle car 
running the light, might face the Maker 

calmly, nothing more to prove, might say, 
I don’t want in, just want you to know what
I’ve been through in case you want to learn 
something. You gods, such know-it-alls. 

Most of all, would he have wanted 
a word with his mate left that morning 
by a hearth? What tenderness, what worry 
might have furrowed that big brow?

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014

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David Cavanagh: “I live in Burlington, Vermont, where I write poems, ride bicycles obsessively, run a degree completion program and teach at a state college. The writing of poems connects me with people (including myself), events, and the great puzzle of it all in a way that nothing else does. My hope is that the reader connects as well and joins the circle.” (website)

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December 19, 2011

David Cavanagh

          for Ken

Death whips with perfect indifference, flays
feeling to the bone. My brother’s gone. Day

barrels implacably on, just like Auden said
of Brueghel’s painting: nobody twigged,

not even on the passing ship, as Icarus
screamed out of the sky into a silent sea.

Now taxis keep pulling into traffic. An email
from the boss still sets execs in motion.

A homeless woman slumped like a played-out
oracle by the pharmacy wall still holds up

her sign: “Anything will help.” I doubt it.
A fabric has been torn. His last full weekend,

we gathered round his bed. Chat zigged
to the notion of a fugue state. Someone said

what’s a fugue? He listened to us fumble for a while,
then broke in, breath sawing, said how layer

builds on contrapuntal layer, returns at last to theme.
With rasping lung, finger tracing time in air,

he dum-da-dummed ascending tiers of Beethoven,
stopped and breathed, “That’s it.”

* * *

To hell with art. To hell with Breughel, Auden,
this crap, too. But he would not say so. He loved

the sublime—the Sistine splendours, basilica’d
expanse of the Piazza San Marco, Austen’s subtleties,

the gardens of de Lotbinière, a fine Bordeaux.
Nurtured dream the way achievers must.

A masted yacht just off the coast still takes
no notice. Billowed sails, an unfamiliar flag,

the captain’s wheel glinting like a sundial, the bow
slicing the blue-green shimmer underneath it all.

My brother stands alone by the gleaming rail.
A flash of white through air to sea. A gasp

as he points. Was that a boy? He strains for
the merest splash. Waves fall back into their theme.

Kind eyes bright, he leans into his astonishment.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets

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