[38] Johnnycake Koan, Daisy Bassen

They offered him nine hundred dollars a day
To deliver the fuel for the ferries, black gold,
They tried to sell it, but he said he’d be driving
A bomb and he’s too busy keeping the old mill
Running; it takes three hours to replace one tooth,
His zazen. The wood in his hands is alive and dead,
Blond curls falling away like his baby son’s had,
Dropped onto on a square of sunlight bleaching
The rag-rug; making a jaw to grind corn, a molar,
Not a fang. The corn is human-grade, sitting in sacks,
But the cooks use it to burp the shellfish. The clams
And mussels in their nacred rooms like French kings
Gobble the cornmeal with a draft of beer, slumming it.
The mill’s been running since 1746, the oldest one left
And he’s the engineer and the bus driver and he grows
Hydrangeas, blue and blotting paper pink, de rigeur
For the island. He takes walks with Walter Folger’s ghost
And they talk about how hard it is to calculate tides,
To take a break from measurement and the failings of clocks.

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