HomeSouthern VoiceThree Poems by Caleb Coy

Three Poems by Caleb Coy

Flea Market

A harmonica claimed by the malady rust
A record collection now gathering dust

This here Afghan dagger may not have seen blood
The tip of it virgin and sheathed
Of all who have held it I am only one

Here drift many stories of fortune gone sour
Here gather the treasure and trash that was ours
Attracting the curious crowd

This necklace I’ll wear with
That shirt over there
This trinket I’ve come by
Can’t recollect where
Could be there’s a story behind these
Worn boots
The wearer had worn them but once
So claims the lone woman
Who sold me this loot

This nameless old portrait sells
Four eighty-five
The ghost in the eyes of
A man once alive

A tea set that’s missing a cup

A hammock to go with this curtain of beads
Something a man really needs

That portrait, that portrait
It stares

If only this dream catcher caught all the tales
That drift from the merchandise laid out for sale
I’d take it home with me to
Read by the fire
I’d track down the owners,
I’d become the buyer
I’d burnish, refurnish and fix
I’d save what I could from the trash
Relieve them of what is long past.


Tomatoes: A History

You should have told me
tomatoes are a fruit
when you served them to me sliced and salted.

Back in the day, or
so said Grandfather
they came off pewter plates in the halls of princes
who tossed out the juice for poison
onto the steamships bearing gigios to Ellis Isle.

My dad would grow his own
in a patch in the shed shade.
He’d wet his appetite
sinking his fork into them
When he heard they could grow out of raised canisters,
he said, “good, they’re poison for dogs,”
but put a fence up all the same.

At a market on Main
I find one so red and plump
she belongs on a silver dish.
I try to grow my own like her
in the square of my pauper’s patch.
My son finds them morbific
but not on a dough plate, disguised in a sauce.


I’d Rather We Lived In A Mobile Home

We compared the cost of our rent
for ten years to the cost of
buying a split level ranch
times the number of children
minus the cost of landscaping,
adjusted for tenant’s fatigue.
Our ship sailed and ran aground
with two kids on board, little
mutinies and fevers. We took photos
and they ate carrots, fortified
their zombie fort, sang Mama Said Clean Up,
wore maroon and orange. I said
boys here’s how you take off running,
you said here’s lavender, milk and
melatonin. We the ministry of
rearing, of scrubbing out spills
underneath a hinting sky of
loan payments. Like having a
sick one in the house. You wouldn’t
go through it again, not with me.
We calculated the cost of our
decade. Why do the dishes
when we’ll dirty again tomorrow, when
legacies write themselves forever?
Yesterday I decided we could
have saved a dime living on cinder
blocks. Better yet, try to see
our sloop-of-war heading into
harbor, swelling of captured pirates.
The keel is fractured, the mast is
creaking, the mainstay frayed, grapes
rolling across the bottom like marbles,
the four of us plugging the hall
with our laundry, ready to hop in
the raft and just go.


Caleb Coy is from the foothills of Appalachia, from Bluefield to Roanoke. He works as a freelance writer with a Master’s in English from Virginia Tech. He lives in Southwest Virginia with his wife and two sons. His poetry has appeared in North Dakota ReviewPenmen Review, The Fourth River, California Quarterly and elsewhere.