July

July is a good time for lying down in green grass, in a graveyard perhaps, like in Kazim Ali’s “July,” where there’s a pause before the next thing, and if you look at it long enough, with a friend, the sky changes —”came down in breaths to my lips and sipped me.”

In July, the windows are always open, as in William  Matthews’ “Morningside Heights, July,” and one hears, like it or not, “a clatter of jackhammers” and someone “yelling fuck in Farsi” and a couple having a break-up conversation, and it all makes one feel a little strange, “hollower than a bassoon.”

Albert Goldbarth’s “Sentimental” begins in July but winds up, with it’s wonderful-sounding language, (“What if some chichi streetwise junkass from the demimonde / gave forth with the story of orphans forced through howling storm / to the workhouse”) going quite elsewhere, as thoughts are wont to do. It begins:

The light has traveled unthinkable thousands of miles to be
condensed, recharged, and poured off the white white pages
of an open Bible the country parson holds in front of this couple
in a field, in July, in the sap and the flyswirl of July
in upper Wisconsin, where their vows buzz in a ring in the air
like the flies, and are as sweet as the sap, in these rich and ritual minutes.
Is it sentimental? Oops. […]

July is also a time for travel, road trips on real roads or on the roads of memory, as in William Stafford’s “One Home,” remembering when “A wildcat sprang at Grandpa on the Fourth of July / when he was cutting plum bushes for fuel, / before Indians pulled the West over the edge of the sky.”

And for summer reading, there are the dictionary-heavy historical tomes, tales of power and those who wielded it, to which Robert Lowell’s “July in Washington” is brother. Or for those who like their fare lighter, there’s “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July” by Billy Collins, in which he takes great fun in saying “Susquehanna” five times. Six, if you count the title.

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