Thursday, November 28, 2013

Another birthday poem

Recess, 1963

A metallic whistle trailing a lanyard
clenched in the teeth of a willowy woman
in a camel hair coat, broad collar a flaring
cone against the cold slap of a late
November wind howling over the gray
sand playground, one hard pinch of a simple
machine, it’s only purpose to pierce the heart
of recess and spring the jaws of phonics
fallen silent somehow, the afternoon dumb
struck, grades one through six a snarl
of marbles colliding on tangled trajectories
our orderly universe suspended in bliss
one eternal moment longer before coalescing
around the rumor’s crushing gravity
the older kids huddled on the four square
court by the boiler room door, entranced  
by a cyclone of leaves, the world gone
topsy-turvey while I hang absolutely
still from my knees at the very top
of the monkey bars, gazing on earth
above and sky below, an arrangement
more to my liking, a fine place where
it turns out, your birthday was
already in full swing, jarred forever
into a delicate new arc.

For Sue

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another poem about dogs


Some dog you were, invisible

                 At night

Draped in a black serape
Topped with a frayed balaclava
Worn rakishly or slightly askew


Only the antic silent film
Flicker of luminous orphaned
Legs to give you away
Phosphorescent afterglow
Of a calligraphic tail
Ghosting white at my margin
Of sight, sweep of the yard
Mullioned by the metronome  
Of the porch swing chain
With its parched dry


You worried cows
With crumpled horns
Crumbled before
the overwhelming urge
to kill guileless rabbits
your methods improvised


Kept to the scrim of shade


The house in high summer
A big post and beam affair
Tin roof feeding a stone cistern
Three chimneys wide as player pianos
Perched high above tombs of hearths
Sealed shut ever since
The Rural Electrification Act of 1935

A mothballed Cunard liner
Plated in whitewashed
Clapboard, staterooms
abandoned starboard and aft
When Mamaw and Papaw
Took to the lifeboats
Paring it down to parlor and kitchen
where we’d sit listening for the milk truck
A.M. station out of Seymour
Broadcasting the morning
Farm report through the screen door

Where you sat rapt and swept
dew from the flagstone
waiting on breakfast  

“Skim milk, crusts, middlings, bits
of doughnuts, wheat cakes with drops
of maple syrup sticking
to them, potato skins, leftover custard
pudding with raisins, and bits
of Shredded Wheat.”  *

one warm summer morning
on one of our annual visits south
wondering, perhaps, whether
any of us noticed
your apparent transformation
from last year’s
beagle collie mix
to some kind of variation
on shepherd mastiff terrier
another Mandarin 
of the Ring Dynasty. 

*Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Friday, November 15, 2013

Welcome, sincerely

Welcome To Walgreen’s

It’s still early when I stop in
for my Friday New York Times.
Still, so very still
up well lit slot canyons
carved deep into strata
of Pain Relief and Laxatives
Ointments and thirty-packs
of Bud Light, Seasonal animatronics
enough to support an insanity plea.
One old woman, held in tableau
clutching a purse to the placket
of her fluted black coat
radiates a faith
worthy of your vilest penitent  
before a Covenant Ark
of anti-inflammatories
Still Crazy After All These Years
piped in to set a mood.
Still, you found the time
for the warmest of greetings
as I walked in, not
the stillborn kind
you’d expect at your CVS
or your Costco
bestowing same on one and all
even the busy, babbling
Bluetooth man.
But be still
my heart at checkout
as if a heartfelt welcome
was somehow insufficient
in these spiritually bereft times.
Did I find everything I was looking for?
You bet I did indeed and more. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The back handed kind


Remember the time
in seventh grade
I told you to go take
a flying fuck
at a rolling purple donut?

You may well have had it coming
Buster, blood red teeth of a stiletto
comb sheathed in your hip pocket

Tapering to menace
a shoulder blade
Your practiced sneer

I think in pictures like Temple Grandin
a curse and a gift I’ve managed
to keep under my hat

Fresh from the fat of the deep
fryer, the one from Homer Price
caroming down the street

Nauseatingly sweet, steel
belted radial, purple as prose
violet as a vase of asters

Wobbly as bad rhyme
easily outpacing the intervening
fifty-odd years

All of it now, at our age, a leap of faith
timing a victim of creaking
joints and crusty synapses

Besides, I said it purely for pleasure
Words exquisitely paired, rolling off my tongue
ahead of such a satisfying heartbeat of syllables
that even you would be able to appreciate.