June 2005


He uses big words,
but mispronounces them.
Searching for the deep 411,
he finds again, then again, the 404.

Sometimes his thoughts
feel like escaped and empty
barges, tugless, piled on the locks
and dam until a flooding river recedes.

Has a wife who won’t have their children
rip his clothes in strips after his funeral,
then sew them into a quilt to wrap
herself in when she misses him.

He’s an extra passing through
a brief background in a bad
movie being filmed with
an unloaded camera.

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there it waS, unexpectedly,
24 down In a puzzle
with less thaN 50 clues;
the daily kind, Easy

enough to Do half in the commercial
break at the 30 mInute mark
of an hour drama – indEfinitely

Her “You no knowthing!”
penetrates his sleep
and he awakens like a Luna
moth about to transform

into a slowly desiccating
splotch on a Ford Explorer’s
windshield, resisting wiper
fluid, needing to be scrubbed,

then squeegeed off and sent
to the concrete with a practiced flick
at a Mobil station where
a cloudburst rinses everything

into a storm gutter emptying
in Wheeling Creek off the river
which is part of a watershed
that ends in a slowly sinking

delta in the Gulf, where
he might remain until maybe
upward thrusted sedimentary
rock weathers into soil,

climaxing in hickory
trees nourishing caterpillars
that store energy so the adult
Luna needn’t eat.
Because he has no mouth.

He gets up and shuts
the screen door she didn’t slam
behind her as she left.

The cool night air
is breathable.
So breathable.

To be the little girl who skates out
while the beautiful young woman
and the athletic young man
take their bows;

to gather up all the flowers
laying on the ice where
admirers, full of love,
threw them,

gliding smoothly through the cool air
from bundle to colored bundle,
reaching out and collecting
without a hitch or a jerk,

stopping gracefully on her mark,
presenting the floral offerings
to the still bright eyed pair,
panting and sweaty,

getting a kiss on rosy cheek
in return from the gallant
while the crowd showers
applause and bravos.

To be blossoming there,
a perfection of life.

(Saw her there again, a few weeks later,
even less hair, when the elevator door
opened at your floor and she
was ready to go down.)

Sitting in a waiting room
with soft olive paint and faded
Impressionist prints on the walls;
magazines with address labels cut off,

while your blood tests
are queued up, keypunched in
and the labels for the tubes printed,
then placed at the bottom of a neat pile.

A Mennonite woman in a black lace
hair cover and modest colored clothes
plays cards with a smiling six year old
girl whose hair is falling out.

Her name called, they go into the drawing room.
Standing at the sound of your own name,
you hear her start to cry;
as you enter and sit, it swells.

She doesn’t move or struggle
but weeps and moans despite
the nurse’s soothing voice marking
progress and at last “It’s done.”

The girl brings her small fist up
to her shoulder and won’t bend
it down again for a Band-Aid,
not even a pretty one
the nurse gets when explaining
“It’s over, just for the bleeding” fails.

You’re glad they let her resist the band-aid.
Then your nurse is saying, “Little pinch.”

“I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind a cloud
To hide its face and cry” Hank Williams, Sr.

Draw the curtains, lower the lights;
load Hank into the CD player,
and set it on Repeat.

Lock the doors,
roll back the rug,
lay the tissue box nearby.

Unplug the phone,
burn some prairie sage,
open a bag of chocolate.

Let the room become
his voice, the fiddle,
and the mournful steel guitar

Only the dimmed mirror sees,
so dance that slow shuffle
and turn if you want.

Close your eyes,
your memories flow,
stop editing and revising.

Thank your conception of god
a sickly fatherless boy met bluesman
Rufus Payne and learned some chords.

Sit or dance,
as it all flows out.
Thanks, Mr. Payne.

Used to be able to tell time within
five minutes by looking at the sun.
Now, he has to look at a calendar
to see what quarter the moon is in.

He rides in the kind of cage he used to sneer
at while pedaling along the white outer line
of a twisting ridge road as the drafting winds
from cars and trucks challenged his balance
as he shifted thru fifteen gears.

A portfolio, for chrissakes;
a taste for Debussy
while yelling at the kids
to “turn down that noise!”
How’d that happen?

Uninsured, his world shrunk
to a couch, TV tray, remote control,
and a short haul to the privy,
watching the Auschwitz commemoration,
he sees thirty presidents and prime ministers
vowing “Never again”.

In Darfur, airborne bombs set fires,
while candles are lit in the safety
of the “Never again” ceremony.
Heels spur horses that arrived
tethered behind laden camels
so they would be fresh.

Fresh mounts to use at the end
of a journey to a village well
so the boys of Janjaweed
can have another
productive day
at the office.

Candles burn in a green freshly mown area
that once was nothing but rails and dust.
Fresh barbed wire has symbolically
replaced the rusted original fences.
Blood in the dust and ashes
replace a village, again.

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