you are in the diode archives v6n3



Second Tie

We coaxed a clerk into
June sun on the Ellicott City
courthouse lawn where she summoned
the law out of air alive in light
just right for making new
lives gone awry, you and I,
man and wife, newly tied
till death do us part,
you, working woman
in pale salmon-red dress,
clutching baby’s breath,
your small children huddled
close, and I, wildly hirsute,
a bit fuddled perhaps,
wide-tied in canary yellow
linen suit, wide-toed shoes,
psychedelic purple peonies
spilling willy nilly from
the acreage of my new tie.



When others speak of their hometowns, I think
of what we had of home and town, Portland
foremost of the dozens we would have,
I then five, you just three, the year we moved
to Winchell Street, the tiny house sitting
on a rise, like a frosted birthday cake. 
That first day, we dashed around the yard,
our parents exhausted.  We ripped lush leaves
from the profusion that is Portland,
the price:  play-paying in veined greenbacks. 
It was a movie-heaven to me then
—1950—our father, just thirty,
tossing us into the blue.  There would be
treasure in the alleys, precious stones,
arrowheads, the detritus of feathered
hunters camped nearby, I was sure,
not so long before.  The gang we ran with
thought us twins—I was so small—and I
wondered, could we be twins by wishing it
enough?  You, a little girl made of something
big, seized each day with fierce intent.  And I,
I wanted to stand out, whether up or down,
to leave my mark once we drifted on again. 

Back in Portland fifty-odd years later,
I returned to Winchell, almost on a whim. 
Even smaller than I recalled, the house
slumped on its small hill, wan from the wear
of generations, in vacant disrepair,
the roses overtaken, the street ill-kempt.
Hooding my eyes, I peered through the dust-
encrusted windows where our 25-year old
mother made peanut butter sandwiches
and poured us milk. I knelt to my knees,
inhaled the earthy grass, fondled the soil
she worked in kitchen gloves, her table fork
digging space for angel wing begonias. 

Yielding to the part of my self that weeps
in the dark of sentimental movies,
I rolled onto the back of my blue-grey suit,
the trees high against the same sere-blue sky.
I wanted to breathe, to taste, Portland air,
to wrap myself around our past—longing
for our young parents, for you, for my own
past self, for those years of passing through
pastel and neon motels, troopships, prop planes,
Quonset huts, through open-heart attachments
then detachments then diversions of the road:
—Abilene to Carthage, San Diego—
—Utah, Baltimore, to Philadelphia—
my Sal Maglie glove giving off the sweet scent
of kipskin leather and neats foot oil
—Yokohama, Arizona, Oregon—
the Philco shouting the joy of Don Larsen’s
perfect game, crackling the news: Einstein died.

When one of us is gone, our Portland
will teeter on the edge of effacement,
and the other will fall in line, in place,
marching among other ordinaries
along Winchell Street, one block to the next. 
Meanwhile, I am collecting these past selves
and of these bits constructing another
momentary self, not so much to leave
a mark as to spit in the eye of extinction.  


Greg McBride is the author of Porthole, winner of the Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry (Briery Creek Press, 2012), and Back of the Envelope, a chapbook (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2009).  His awards include the Boulevard Emerging Poet prize and a grant in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council.  His work appears in Boulevard, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review Online, River Styx, Salmagundi, and Southern Poetry Review. A Vietnam veteran and lawyer, he edits The Innisfree Poetry Journal.