Winter 1992, Volume 9.1


Read other work by Nancy Takacs published in Weber Studies: Vol. 12.1Vol. 13.1. Vol. 16.3, and Vol. 23.2.


First Snow
We do everything
together because he wants
to dig the same hole I've already
dug with the same sharp trowel,
not a plastic blue shovel, and
if I use something new, a tool,
I catch him holding the wrench
to him, moving it in circles,
then following me in
to eat only the apple I eat
with the thick yellow skin on.
I think I'm becoming
myself again
as he finally doesn't need
to be carried,
drifts through other rooms
while I read.
But his hair is darkening
like mine did.
He refuses to sleep
so we cover the sandbox
together, almost seriously,
tighten the tarp, place
the bricks and watch
the storm come in.
I say the hummingbirds have all gone
though he doesn't remember.
Only lately he understands,
says words so that I can say them:
Yes, moon, car, horse, walk, clouds.
Now he can climb stairs alone,
has one-word arguments.
He connects
white ice, white-cat's fur,
white moon, and sitting up late
he finds the half-moon
inside our thumbnails.
So we name everything.
We take our walk
out in the beginning desert winter
so he can point to birds settling in the only pine
reds and yellows in the sky,
about to disappear.
He trails the dirt road
before I lift him up to get home,
to hurry back, slice across
the narrow field
that will become black, then white.

The House Where the Music Began


Between waiting we were amazed
my mother kept this secret
but never kept it up more
than a minute. And just
by ear, the instrument
with loose strings
a varnished violin
in a crushed bag
in the closet.
It was just she never learned
a whole song and then swept
me and my brother through Alleghenie
tunnels each summer hushing us
with a mountain named Kittanini
to arrive at this house
where no one lived but Frances.


And who'd think
it would matter to her,
where father and his five sons,
each an accordion genius
according to her
practiced polkas in Polish,
even the Beer Barrel,
for New York some day or even as far
as Greensburg, some circuit,
when the six daughters
learned little, who mostly
listened and instead
did each half-step by heart
for the next wedding in the dark
Polish American Home. Those nights
the boys played across the country
the girls waved their hair,
guessed what color car
would slip down the road next,
or put up pickles
my mother says are still there.


And that's the end.
The old man lost an arm
and diabetic anyway
it wasn't long. Stash, Johnny,
and whoever never cut
a homemade record
are who knows where,
letters a few years
of much good luck, then
two dead in Albany in a collision.
A few sisters still
dancing and singing into their sixties
keep in touch
in two states.
And agree each Christmas
it was all wrong
almost everyone gone
searching for more than song
across the mountain chain
and harmonize on Just Because.


And now our cousins
are embarrassed (for our strange
family so easily dismantled)
by these tunes
that could be dark knowing
the circumstances for my mother.
She's thrown
her violin away but takes one up
occasionally in restaurants.
For whatever reason,
the Borowsky Band's
small fame, old partners
half-turning under locked arms,
the half-kick on three,
never shyly she plays
to those who might make
a Polish toast,
her few startling notes.
The Beginning of Spring
My son cries
all the way home in the car
bowling rubber ghosts,
peddling an orange plastic car
through hairsprays and birthday cards
to the garden shop,
knocking down a whole
row of seedlings: 4 cherries, 2 apricots,
lawn wind wheels
shaped like ducks,
and with a fistful of snapdragon seeds
peddling wildly on,
Anyway, he cries now
because I wouldn't get
the book where colors
seep to the surface
with water, red already
in Snoopy's hat
from his saliva
he noticed.
He cries past
the train, the cows,
sheep in that brown pasture,
prairie dogs sitting up,
once only rocks in the snow.
The eight minutes to our house
where earlier we'd been out
in the sandbox amazed
at the spiders, watching
the cat roll over
in dust for the first time,
and with plastic rakes
taking old leaves
from the crocuses,
before we walked all the way back in
to the neighbor's horses
leaning and calling them
without apples,
and then with apples,
and talked about asparagus,
how we'll go along the tracks
where farmers burned the land smooth
already, and bend the stalks
away from themselves to where they break.
After my son loses his first two teeth,
we take the boat out
for the last time this summer
really the fall, looking for wildlife,
peace, ready to lie out
under the meteor showers,
the three of us
not ready to give up
this old life for kindergarten.
Next year we'll forget,
between us another old layer
of love. When he's older, maybe
he'll think dryness drew us together,
just conscious this year
of his garden, tomatoes he knew
couldn't live on air,
all our waterings
for those spiky flowers he chose
himself, that opened to blue
silk through this terrible drought.
The lake has gone down
and left islands, unbuoyed rocks
we somehow navigate
in veinlike waterways.
Boats mazing their way away from us,
we're finally on sand
hiking what the downdrift
left a pocket of chirt,
but around a bend
this Great Blue.
Surprised by us, it skims the water.
And we have to follow
seeing it land just a little farther
again and again
until it lifts away through the telescopes
our hands have turned into.