Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ukraine, I crane

Ukrainian Waitress at the Pigeon Forge Chop House

Please don’t judge us solely
on our dinner selections
loaded Idaho baked potatoes
heart smart rice pilaf
crocked French onion soup
full orders of spicy Buffalo chicken wings
though on second thought
our nagging lamentations
over second guessed choices
photo spreads 
of this or that or the other thing 
blinding glare from slicky-slack
laminated menus-for-dummies
may be a revelation
that beats Gallup, Harris, even Nate Silver. 
Latvian or Polish, maybe Czech
but what kind of arcane
global department of weeding shunts
youth from former Soviet satellite states
to places like:
Branson, Missouri or Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or
the Wind Jammer Restaurant in Copper Harbor, Michigan
where a young woman fresh
from mainland China once took 
our order, unrelenting 
smiles on all faces
smiles for the menu
smiles for each other
smiles for the large woman inching
through the restroom door marked “Gulls”
smiles for the low ceilinged
gunmetal gray clouds
soldiering in from Superior
smiles for four old Finns gumming
pillowy cinnamon buns
smiles for the pair of lenses
missing from the stylish frames
on the beaming face
of our Mandarin speaking waitress
who, as it happened, was
weeks away from wrapping
up a summer stint in the Upper Peninsula
on her way to wintering
over in Chicago
a distinction without
much of a difference. 
“Ukrainian” you say
emphasis on the second
syllable, leveling me with a 2 x 4 
gaze, spade 
of European fatalism
furrowing your brow
“Lviv”, I wager
“seems nice”
followed by a breathless
drive-by of recent Ukrainian history:
a Russian father
perforated borders
a sister in Donetsk
you worry about day and night
here beneath the Aurora Borealis 
caloric motel gag 
of the Smoky Mountain foothills.
What is your opinion of Dolly Parton?
Have you toured the Titanic?
Do you ever get the itch
to stroll the Creation Museum?
questions I would like to ask 
but don’t. Instead 
I order some wine
the Chop House being
the only place around 
to get it by the glass
owing to Byzantine Baptist 
blue laws
that allow
should the mood take hold
one to buy a Mason jar
of pure Tennessee 
moonshine likker. 
“Santa Fe” I say
by way of suggestion
when your tenure here is up
but your heart
seems to be set on Denver. 
Oh well, at least it’s not
the U.P., I think as I take
my first sip
a toast and a smile
for a Slavic expat 
from a famished native. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Who Gives A Hoot?

Screech Owl

You weren’t fooled
One minute
Late Friday evening  
By uncanny calls to love

Issuing from Audubon’s mobile app
Wise, it turns out
To calibrations
Distinguishing chuffed

Mild Annoyance
From head turning
Cries of Alarm! 
Nor were you deceived

In the least by Stan Getz
Filtering soft and sweet
Through an open window.
You saw right through

My Italian sandals
To piebald Midwestern
Provincialism, eggs  
Doused in catsup  

Playing Lennie
In a local production
Of Mice and Men

A mere dream but
One that died hard. 
You may have been
Momentarily flummoxed

By certain discrepancies
In my curriculum vitae
Errors of omission
You may rest

Assured can be explained
By the light
Of a Hunters Moon.
But you weren’t taken in

By the band of tiny angels
Descending to bear me
Home on a thousand
Pairs of gossamer wings

Straining at the tented points
Of all those gathers, gazing
Up in silent reproach
At my receding wan grin. 

I was so sure you’d fall
For the one about
The Romanov heiress who
But for the want

Of your bank account information
Would gladly cut you
In for half her share
Of Faberge Eggs

Failing to take
Into account the speckled clutch
You guard with murderous

No rube
No turnip
From a turnip cart
No bigger than a pint jar

Enough to sit
On the front porch
Tucked into shadows
Running a finger around

The rim of this glass
Listening for your call
The one that snookered me
Thinking I’d heard the cry of a loon. 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't paint it black

A Yellow Door

When I slip out at dawn for the paper
Muscle in groceries from the back of the car
Dog gone all charcoal smudged behind the screen    

Whether losing a few minutes to church
People witnessing like salt and pepper
Shakers from the front porch, galloping heat

Up through the sober soles of their brogans
Lest they forget their toehold on the lip
That rims the eternal lake of brimstone

Emerging sinners bathed in the honeyed
Liquor of salvation abiding in
A sunset stroll downtown, enticed by a

Niggling alter call we barely make out
over choirs of cicadas, Communion
taken knee to knee at a street café

Coming or going, going or coming
shot as from the barrel of a cannon
limping back in on a wing and a prayer

Only a yellow door will do, perhaps
A snarling lion knocker we’ll ignore
On lazy evenings slow as broken yolk.