green wet hot grass soaked denim blue jeans,
dusty fingertips and nails, ripped skin, burnt metal,
the mower tipped, I sat in the grass on the half-mowed hill
and you stood at the top, looking through everything,
cursing, your hair loose scooped in a ponytail, cursing,
the weed whacker coughing, you yanking the string,
it spitting, I sat holding the wheel that fell off the mower,
twirling, twisting with my fingers, feeling the bones inside,
nothing in a stripped socket, the ratchet we needed was dad’s
but this isn’t dad’s house anymore so the basement just holds
dead bug shells, wet cold, no tools no nails just lightbulb chains
that pop like yellow anger when you ask one for a hand,
and that wooden door, with the hook, where the lanterns
closed their eyes, where no one wants to go first.
the wheel fell of a third time and I, like a lightbulb,
blew, in my mind I poured gas on the engine, lit a match
and howled through everything, but I felt something. Underneath.
under my feet, an answer, but neither did that happen I snapped
my eyes open, a butterfly on the mower blade like a wing,
I dropped the match that wasn’t in my hand as
the weed whacker was blowing blue clouds of smoke,
2-cycle, 2-stroke, I leaned back, cough, spat, choked,
all this, as the garage door hung off one hinge, the wheelbarrow
upside down, and the roof cracked open as weeds grew out,
fingers reached to the sky for a hand, the lawnmower sat
on its side, you sat down, I looked up, ours eye could have
rolled or squinted but instead they smiled, we laughed,
I wiped my hands on my dungarees and mowed the
lawn on three wheels while you pulled the weeds.
About “My dungarees”
This poem came from a moment in my life that I felt needed to be written down and given a life of its own. It started with the first line; the combination of image and sound that I was playing with made me happy. The moment was not completely happy though, and I think the poem shows that. The memory is not wonderful, it is slightly vexed, but it is surely poignant. It ends with us doing what we had to do. We have always done that, my mother and I. Writing this down and allowing it to breathe allowed me to likewise breathe. That is what writing is. A breath. When you have something your mouth can’t piece together, write.
Liam Owens is a senior studying biology and neuroscience at Syracuse University.