365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor


The story of a man in love with rain

begins and ends in light,
and has the appearance
of a history, however hazy,
however brief.
The eaves slice off the rain.
It is a regular story,
after all, the story
of a man in love with rain.
But we are amazed sometimes

at his fidelities.
Dearest, he writes,
when the late afternoon
storms embrace the house, I long for you.
The windows shudder, traced
by the rain's fingertips,
as you would, were mine
to trickle across your shoulders.
The letter lies unfinished,

like the other letters
we have found or will find.
History pools in the telling,
and the man in love with rain,
if he had never returned,
would the quality of light
be different, here, now?
And the color of regret,
how would it fall across

the step? The asphalt steams
under the sun's late arrival,
water winks from the trees,
the porch railings, the car's
bumper, where it beads
and drips. He swings
slowly on the porch swing,
trying to remember,
trying to stir the moist air.

The importance of neckties

Consider, today, the tie rack.
It hangs inside the closet
door, like a secret, like sleep,
layer on layer of cotton
and silk a history
of dates and banquets,
of church services, Christmases
past, and the occasional
yardsale find, lingering
among the wealth of ties
like my father's cologne.

It has twelve arms, jutting
from a central rack, six on each side.
It folds out for display, folds back
against the door. It will hold,
said the box, over sixty ties.
My desire exceeds that, my need
for these signifiers, my lust for ties.
Ties are doubled, thrown
over each other, the more
rarely worn peeking coyly
from beneath, between their brethren.
The second arm on the right
hoists the bowtie brigade
butterflies and batwings, short
and stubby, pert. On the left center
a sigh of silks. Near the back,
a green leather gift from a friend
in Europe, a snake draped amid
this lush foliage of prints and florals,
power reds and pale yellows.
From time to time the authority
of the preppy rep, the blaze of stripe,
the fade of a madras plaid, or
the nostalgia of hand-me-down rayon.

Last night, at the automated teller,
I saw a woman in a swirl of ties,
a skirt made of ties sewn together,
their broad sword tips just above
her knees, the ends tapering and
disappearing at her waist the flare
and pleat of fathers and sons,
of power and privilege, a woman's waist
encircled by neckties. They seemed
like trophies, perhaps, pendulous
and dangling, or a kind of transvestism.
Waiting for her money, she smoothed
their polyester and silk sheens,
hands white against the dark fabrics.

A friend of mine once took my picture
in front of the tie rack, which she had
seen when I opened my closet.
She liked all the colors, there,
behind me, behind the closet door.
A photo of streamers, flags furled,
a wall of ribbons, blue for first
place, red for second, yellow for
honorable mentions. Behind me,
a maypole in dishabille, undressing.
Behind me: the closet, open.

There is room in my closet.
The ties fold against the door.

At night, when I am asleep,
I sometimes hear them rustling
in my closet, these ties memories
slither across one another, men whisper
conspiratorially of new loves, new deceits.

Ed Madden, an Arkansas native who earned his Ph.D. degree at the University of Texas, has been an assistant professor of English at USC since August 1994. His work has appeared in College English, the Wallace Stevens Journal, and Christianity and Literature. Three of his poems are included in the 1994 anthology Gents, Bad Boys, and Barbarians.

© Copyright by POINT, 1995
Last modified 11/12/95