Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rail travel

Rain, Steam and Speed-The Great Western Railway

Life between the rails
the price paid for rhythm
that works its way
into the conversation we’ll have
with the couple from Kamloops
over drinks in the bar car
elongated shadows of stem ware
clocking ever so slightly
across snow white prairie  
dotted with one stoplight words
nothing more
than a few boarded up syllables
struggling vowels of a diner slash package store
the emphatic final consonants
of grain elevators
trailing off into long stretches of silence
stealing glimpses
of the future on grand sweeping curves
while the past
rifles through our pockets
on the perfect parallel track
of the here and now.   

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Last Inning

Night Game, 1964

The murk in the lot west of Trumbull
smears Tiger Stadium to a smudge on the page
buckled newsprint damp to the touch.
Gauzy chrome in drunken coils  
snakes around the swarming cars
molting engine blocks
tick to crescendo in metallic meadows
that collar the castle
a sweating layer cake
oozing a scrim of grimy icing
inhaling a parade of ants through open pores.
There’s green
then there’s the green
framed in the gaping mouth of the tunnel
where we emerge bathed in light
a cottony chemical glow
tainting horizons way out Michigan Avenue
backlighting the skyline
from the steps of Scott Fountain.
A coal black usher
in a red striped shirt
flips our green seats down
four gunshot cracks wiped clean
with a snow white rag. 
Raptured pills of high pop flies
leave me behind with the unsaved multitudes
our faces beaming heavenward
while Pharisees proclaim
the holy host in paper cups
up and down the sweat slick steps
of the temple. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

song cycle


I emerge gulping daylight
the buttery pat of loam
cocked on my head
a mortar board
tasseled with worms
tepidly applauding my graduation
from seventeen years in isolation
clutching this yellow legal pad
brimming with broad leaves of longhand
trailing creeping marginalia
to accompany your fricative improvisations
scatting the words to our pastoral
dusk ripe and bursting
from the carapace of an August day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Taking Wing

Short Fiction

Before sitting down to write a story
I’ll think up a character with a few
miles on him but not so many to put
him to sleep by nine, leaving our eager
third person narrator little to do
but describe the layout of the bedroom;
furniture of uneven pedigree
clutter enough to suggest spiritual
disarray well within acceptable
limits but worth keeping a close eye on
opining sotto voce a second
character, someone with a few hours
to kill in Wiesbaden or Banda Aceh
poling a spoon through black coffee gone cold
in a spider vein cup, the slightest shift
of a knee twisting the plot around the
discovery of a memory stick
taped to the underside of his café
table, Marnie-LA labeled in red. 
I write some muscular verbs to wrestle
him onto to the overnight train to Split
and shift to an unreliable first
person singular narrator who finds
himself wincing into a coffee cup
at daybreak, words crumpled in heaps outside
confused by their reflections in the window.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Atlas, pass the ketchup

Picnic Table

The locust posts
he found peeled clean
lopped in six foot logs
on the rundown farm
behind blowsy fence rows
where his mother was born
trespass a tangy note
to cut the sweet cloy of larceny
sweeter still to feature
Papa Wear railing red
in the sweet by and by
elastic drawl reduced to ash
Scots Irish burr
coaxed back to life
tender green oaths
up in shoots through the burn.

Cedar plank branded
with bore holes
four inch lag bolts
to bite and hold
spar varnish lavished
on knot and grain
ship in a bottle
for a man
with oars for hands
heart a deep draft keel.

Life ain’t no picnic
so my father
built a table
to last an eternity.

I watched him
tip the table top
onto his back
grip the edges
below the center of gravity
rise in a stoop
like a mythical beast
spiked with locust posts
and waltz the table
down the block
to a neighbors backyard
where picnickers covered
his metaphor
with a red checked table cloth
and pointed him toward the cooler.