Eric Chiles, Three Poems

Turf War
Eric Chiles

His barefoot son came in from the yard
crying with red spots across his foot.

That’s how the invasion was discovered.
The boy had stepped on an anthill near the swings.

Such an incursion couldn’t be tolerated.
Ants have their place, but not where kids play.

But should he carpet bomb the colony
with boiling water, or be more diplomatic?

Children need safety, but ants help nurture
the soil and attack other insect pests,

so the enemy of those enemies wasn’t his
son’s worst enemy, but an ally worth keeping.

Just not by the swings. But how to persuade
the singular mentality of the colony to move?

Cold—not hot—war! He uncoiled the hose
and began flooding out the red ants.

Drowned workers – necessary collateral damage
floated among the blades of grass. But others

appeared carrying the white pupae of the next
generation. When the large queen appeared,

he scooped her up and carried her to the far border
of the vegetable garden, then watched the workers

porter the larvae single-file across the lawn.
Within two days, a new, friendlier anthill arose.

 

Jam Time
Eric Chiles

Somewhere between beating
the birds to the raspberry bushes
along the alley behind the house
and morning coffee, I remember
Grammy Concilio’s grape arbor.
Concords. Chewy skins in her jam.

I didn’t trust anything homemade
as a child after Granddad scared
me away from tapioca pudding
when he told me it was made from
a root whose bark was poisonous.
Only five, my bowl unfinished forever.

If food was in a can or a box or wrapped
on a store shelf, it must be safe
little me reasoned. I wouldn’t eat
Mom’s gooey chocolate gobs because
she beat in duck eggs Dad plucked
from Monocacy Creek’s cold waters.

But I have two cups of fresh raspberries—
and scratches on my knuckles—
to add to the two I picked yesterday,
and these scarlet gems spoil
almost as quickly as dew dries.
Time to cook the season’s first batch.

Tomorrow morning I’ll paint
a toasted English muffin, red
with fresh raspberry jam, enjoying
it with my coffee, watching the sun
through the window trace their
faces across the tablecloth.

 

Stuck in Traffic
Eric Chiles

The turtle got to the double yellow lines
before a mail truck blocked its way.
To me, driving in the other lane, it looked like
a black lump of roadkill, but its head
turned toward me as I neared, woods on
my side, the truck, a trailer, and pond on the other.

The truck pulled away, and I almost kept going.
But I backed up to the turtle, and it stared at me.
I got out, picked it up—an orange-skinned wood turtle,
yellow eyes blinking at me—and placed it in the grass
on the pond side of the road as a shirtless,
skinny guy from the trailer checked his mail.

A little farther on, traffic crawled as a road crew
patched potholes. Smiling, the flag man
in a fluorescent yellow vest pointed at me
and waved me through to the other side.


Eric Chiles is an adjunct professor of Journalism and English at a number of colleges and universities in eastern Pennsylvania and was a prize-winning print journalist for more than 30 years. His poetry has appeared in Allegro, American Journal of Poetry, Apeiron Review, Asses of Parnassus, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, Third Wednesday and other journals. His poem “The orchid garnish” won the 2015 Cape Cod Writers Center Poetry Contest. He took third place in the 2016 Pennsylvania Writers Conference Poetry Contest. In 2014 he completed a 10-year section hike of the Appalachian Trail.

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