Three Pieces by Michael McFee




THE ARTIST

He wakes up at three a.m. and sees
the artist still in her backyard studio
and wonders if she ever feels scared
out there by herself at night
where anybody can watch her work

from a distance with binoculars
or nearby with the naked eye
or standing right outside her window

hoping to catch her doing something
remarkable or possibly scandalous
that might explain exactly why
a person would spend so much time
lost to the world and its inhabitants

and anything except her moving hands
and the shapes that issue from them
as she paints or draws or doodles
then touches her forgotten hair
and cuts off the lights to start

making her way across the black yard
back to the house, much like his,
that's already been dark for hours.


VERY OLD MAN ROLLING DOWN A HILL

Like some giddy kid
escaped at last from the backseat
of a slow family vacation,
he keeps rolling down this grassy bank
again and again, side over side,
till he's so dizzy he can barely stand and stagger
back to the crest of the vertiginous hill
and lower himself bone by sore bone onto the ground,
laughing, invoking God, covering his face,
stiffening his itchy legs then tumbling forward
as the barrel of his rattled body
picks up breakneck speed and plunges
over this waterfall of earth,
spinning at the bottom of the sky,
whirled between worlds.


THE DROWNED POOL

It was our favorite swimming pool in the country
because we could walk straight into the water,
its sides not the usual vertical drop
but a beachlike slope into a huge chlorinated pond
with a concrete bottom and no slimy stuff,
its wooden diving platform way out in the middle.

One summer I learned to swim there, inside the ropes.
One day I learned to kiss there, behind the concession stand.
One night Bo Gasperson snuck in while drunk
and slipped while running to do a bellyflop
and split his forehead on the edge of the platform
and was dead before his buddies pulled him from the water.

Now it's twenty feet under, at the bottom of Lake Duke,
covered by water used to cool the electric plant.
Now we only swim there in our dreams,
walking downslope into the lake and out to the pool
where we dive all night, in perfect slow motion,
from the platform crowded with the county's drowned kids,

their bodies shining as we practice our intricate dives
inside of and yet into the darkest water,
never quite coming down.


A lifelong North Carolinian, Michael McFee has been
an editor, librarian, book reviewer, and teacher. He
currently lives in Durham and teaches at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published five
collections of poetry, most recently *Colander* (Carnegie
Mellon, 1996). In 1994 he edited *The Language They Speak
is Things to Eat* (University of North Carolina Press), an
anthology of contemporary North Carolina poets. He
also serves as assistant poetry editor for
*DoubleTake* magazine.





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