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news3Proposing a Toast

To the boy who carries his grandmammy's artificial leg
into the hospital
proud to be useful,
proud to handle an object
around which so much attention has been focused.

To the grandmother who lets him do it,
who follows after him in her wheelchair
down the long hallway of the ward
and when she catches up warns,
"Easy, we ain't play'n baseball."

To the stunted morning
of droopy trees an slushy grass
which I enter into new
because of that.

news3Driving to Fayetteville with Friends for a Case of Beer

The red suitcase sprung open
in the middle of the highway
obvious as a road kill
seemed to be warning us
to turn around, but we kept going

certain the woman whose lace bra
hung on barbed wire
whose cream-colored slip
dangled from the top of a Douglas fir
was even now being forced
to lie face down
in someone's back car seat

We weren't innocent
of what we imagined happening
since everything performed
must first be conceived possible
We felt uncomfortable
imagining violence

and were embarrased
by a farmer whose fruit we stopped to buy
who explained the black silk negligee
under his peach trees
as someone grabbing a piece of midnight
nookie, not as it must have been,
someone freeing herself
of what held little importance.

We were hot on the trail of a woman
eager to leave these hills.

news3The Need to Keep Going

She steps from the long shadow
of our porch, where we have argued,
to hide her hurt feelings
in the care of roses.

But she works carelessly,
grabs thorny stems without gloves
until her fingers
are torn and bloody.

I would kiss them, kiss her, end up
by humility or confession in our bedroom,
except tall grass demands I cut it.
Over and over the same demand.

We love the world,
love each other, but we love idly
in the hot summer, stalled
by the need to keep going.


lean3Workers at the Ranger Station

Because there was little else to do
we began murdering the mice
who came from the damp grasses
of the meadow to find warmth,
light and music. All summer long
they climbed through the chinks
in the log walls of our cabin. At night
they rattled our cereal boxes,
left twisted tracks across cold skillet grease
built nests of paper in our dresser drawers.

We set our traps along the kitchen counter
in drawers, in cupboard corners.
Then played at playing cards,
pretended not to listen as traps
snapped shut, as delicate backbones
were broken. Alone, we might have shown
them mercy. Collectively, we feigned
indifference. What is one creature
more or less who sticks its nose
into the leftovers uninvited? We tossed
the tiny corpses back into the grasses.

lean3Tamarisk and Painted Lady

When tamarisk bloom
in the land of saguaro
and slender, blood tipped ocotillo,
the desert turns blue-green and gray like haze,
so sky and hills and tamarisk
drift dreamlike in the traveler's eye.

And where the tamarisk thrive
there is promise of water,
the moist blessing of earth,
though at a distance
the small-leaved petals seem parched
and sunburnt.

They camouflage a willowy greeness
where one can discover
as if breaking a pomegranate open
the painted lady,
half-moth, half-butterfly,
her grey wings folded together,
the underside bright orange
with brownish swirls.

Among the strokes of blurred
and muted colors
lucky the traveler who sees
a dozen painted ladies fly
from the inner sanctum
of one tamarisk.

lean3Like Ulysses

On my return
I listen for a while
to boats rasp
against their moorings,
to a social entanglement
of noisy sea gulls.
There is the faint,
phlegmatic cough
of an old sailor come
to cock an eye
at the blazing horizon.
Waves strike
against the rocks
like a desire.
Before I go to
the woman I love,
I will open my shirt
like a sail,
hold up both arms and
let the damp sea air
inhabit me.

downtimeBulls & Steers

My grandfather used his son
as bait to lure a bull,
too wild to handle, into the corral
where he lay in wait
with a sledge hammer.
His blow would teach it not to be cruel.

My father said of it, "Afterward,
I cleaned out my rear pocket
of snot and slobber or whatever."

My father swung a 2x4
and knocked an Angus steer to its knees
who had refused to climb
the cattle ramp. Its problem
was resisting being taken to slaughter.

My father whipped me
for riding the neighbor's steers,
"You could break some bones,
even that thick one in your skull."
So I quit a career
and became, instead of bull rider, poet.

downtimeDoorknob

twist it
the house comes alive
like an antique radio

rooms light up
voices fade in and out
news, weather, sports

then music you love-
tenor with guitar
and cello

the glass rattles
and you can see inside
the various ghosts

you have conjured,
can feel
the cool brass globe,

in your palm
held against time,
release

downtimeMottos

My mother's motto is
"blossom where you grow."
I concur, but only so
if you are a blossomer.

My motto, Mother, is:
"put down roots;
dig in the earth so deep
you stay for keeps;

in cloud and clod,
in sun and seed,
in drifting, anchoring
facts of life, believe."