Two Poems by Cal Freeman

By Cal Freeman

Bella Vista

You’re staying in Room 8. You like it here, despite the musty smell. You can watch the lake from the picnic table on the patio. “Bella Vista” is spelled out in bold cursive on the concrete bottom of the pool. It feels good to say it aloud—Bella Vista, beautiful view, grand view. It doesn’t translate perfectly, but you look out and there’s Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay; it’s ocean-blue or blue as the sky or blue as what we maim in our descriptions. The waves this evening are whitecapped combers that spray the support bars of the jet ski lift before collapsing in a despondent clop in the sand. They haven’t hosted weddings at the Bella Vista in years, but they still advertise this service on every room door. Of all the marriages doomed to failure, why have so many of the profligate befriended me? seems like a question for the shuttered ballroom or a prescient epithalamion. Is it something other than doom that keeps the vows coming but not keeping? A tacit understanding that ten good years beats ten lonely ones? The wisdom of knowing that forever is a concept which, despite our formal histrionics, can never be convincingly acted out? Weddings are soliloquys; marriages are more than that. A steel swing set is anchored in the breakwater. Kid Rock blares from someone’s Bluetooth speaker. You want to say it doesn’t sound like here, but how could it not sound like here? You’re somewhere south of the Big Dipper, unsure if that makes sense. The lone maple soughs in humid air. The shouting next door’s become rhapsodic. Drunks cloak themselves in noise, but it’s really more akin to resignation. Too late for apology or grace. The gone years, the wasted calligraphy and crepe. You step into a swing and boomerang over the water. You think it might be Tawas across the bay. You went to a wedding there once that took place behind a little blue cottage on the banks of the Au Sable. Now they’ve sold the place and split the money. Nothing really ends, you think, looking out across the lake and knowing otherwise. Shadow of a pier in the light of a buoy that tells you you’re returning to something: song, place, or figment. Superior mirage; lights, refraction, inversion of air masses revealing the impossible—a buoyant city, a levitating ship.  

Waltz Inn

A heavy oak door 

has opened of its own volition 

after having just been closed, 

and the figure of a woman 

looks at our troubled time 

in languor. A spirited restaurant 

where each denizen believes 

in spirits. I’d have liked 

to have gone back one more time 

for un-wooded chardonnay 

and lightly-pankoed perch, 

to swallow spirits and ghost,

to take something for the ditch,

but all I have is the old farmhouse 

in my viewfinder and another plaintive

photo for a relic. 19th-century 

farmhouse storied of good food 

and visitations. Maple bar 

with backlit mirrors rimed, 

soon to be gone as the gone trees 

of Whispering Woods, 

gone as the figures the night cuts 

of parallax and artificial light. 

If I listen I can almost hear

the clip-clop of hooves

in the fresh hell of half-sleep, 

the clatter of iron and steel tolling over 

hash marks as an engine tumbles 

toward the city. Such repetition 

is how every ghost is born. 

In the headlight of a train, 

the atemporal’s a fact,

the known’s a whistle stop, the mind’s a token visitation

About the Author: Cal Freeman is the author of the book Fight Songs. His writing has appeared in many journals including Sugar House Review, Southwest Review, Commonweal, PANK, Rattle, and The Literary Review. He is a recipient of the Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes) and winner of Passages North’s Neutrino Prize. He currently serves as Writer-In-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Detroit and teaches at Oakland University