Today's update is Part Two of "Ditchwater & Cook Poems". The poems were originally written between February and May 2007, with some recent edits in July 2007.
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…a gradual eulogy to the world…
I love the gap in your voice when I say something silly,
when your stones in the light pay tribute to dawn.
On the scale of one to ten I'd give you a nine plus
for all the beauty you bring to one blossom.
And when the room sucks in your air with a gasp
at one of my misstatements or misreadings, I just
stand there, shifting my feet, and stutter at the tongue-
lashing. It's fewer not less, you let me know
in a tone reserved for your children.
Like them, I'm happy to accept your guidance.
And you've learned not to say, That poem doesn't
make sense, but to caution that my metaphors aren't
reasonable. I've learned to listen, and well at that.
Your rhododendrons need pinching, you tell me lovingly.
Three Samples of Autumn
The first is the driving heat drafting up
from the cow dung in the meadow,
settling on the limbs and leaves
whose husky thirsts derive from want.
Second is the fruit on these limbs,
the apples, cherries, and pears
that rock left and right in the slight breeze
bringing relief, and fragrance from the flesh.
The last is the rain that gives way to frost,
when the rest of the garden is picked
and the stubble has gone to mulch,
when the robins arrive and peck for seeds.
At dawn, every face is a nightmare,
freckled children and heavily-bearded men
swirl about with garbage cans and school buses,
all checking the clock and rocking the streets.
Later, the business suits turn their eyes
to their watches as their wives gather
on driveways or porches, wave good-bye
wishing the absence would last longer,
or maybe not as long, while they struggle
with pucker-faced kids dawdling in doorways.
The laments they could turn into songs
remain frozen in their modern minds.
Dreaming of ten thousand Buddhas,
they go on, hopelessly fruitful.
His own tiny destiny at hand, and skin
the color of dusk, with the small glow
of autumn in his mind, and a trailing wind
that blows him from the meadow, he grasps
the small coin of dream and goes to war.
It's so beautiful, he says, when he tells you
why he loves it. The desert is as lonely
as a wolf, and the packs of marauders
are as dangerous as flint. There is a fuse
in the eyes of the enemy and life is short.
Someone is hiding in the flickering light
of the hallway and he doesn't know
if the staccato sounds are in his head
or the fresh wounds of nightmares.
The paper money in his pocket makes a shuffling noise
when he puts his hand down and pulls out coins.
Outside, a few bird nests rattle like banners
so he knows troops patrol the neighborhood.
He has reached that place where life fools him
with the subtle awareness of a stranger's false teeth
in his mouth. He thinks, My whole life is a failure,
and looks at the hind legs of his dog thumping
the couch. The futility gnaws at him. He can't
chew the sandwich his wife left him for lunch.
Beef is so damn tough, he says to himself,
wishing for peanut butter and jam, or something
to go down easy like the brew he's sworn off.
Then he feels the dog lick his stumps.
A Eulogy for the Remains
In the beginning there are flowers
scattered on the ground, singles
and in pairs, there are also cards
and soldiers playing with guns.
They are like triplets waiting
to ambush the children who pass.
At the end of the street, a pretty girl
looks with her suspect eyes in motion,
with the calling card of terror in action.
Shocked with red, someone
takes a photo of her head blown off.
We think, how strange this is,
the daily reports of civilians
exhuming their children's remains.
Small Town USA
A grab bag of disaster, no one comes to town
anymore. The doors are barred, windows shuttered,
only a few winos and homeless at midnight
track down alleys, across town to the park
where they try to sleep without the bother
of killers or cops, the same breed in their minds.
No news is good news, they say, rising at dawn
to use the bathrooms locked down for the night.
But it's spring, the winter is over, and dogs
out for a walk read yesterday's news
among the smells of blossoms over the sidewalks.
A good day to die, a warrior might say.
But it's not so. They go to the bank to give blood
and hope their small curses won't curl their tongues.
We forget how strange it is to lose out
to death, but it always happens.
The oddest memories creep up
and become vivid in our oldest years.
How to say we live in lonely quarters,
and with not much more than quarters.
As lonely as looking into the street
where we know no one, not even
the neighbors. And our children
live in different places, one north,
another east, the first lost to war.
On the rare night we are up late, we notice
ants scurrying the cupboards. Next morning
we're surprised at gaunt cheeks and missing hair.
A Night at the Opera
Unable to pick up our feet from the mud,
we stand, fingering our hats, watching the fish-
monger hawk his wares in the rain.
It's not unlike going into a stream
and coming out in a storm. He flails,
the drops sail, and the wind bites
the umbrellas out of our hands. At the restaurant
we think, What a tasty way to sample dinner,
as we pass up the fried shrimp for three shots.
One too many, we notice, as our legs
buckle and laces untie. This is no way
to get to the theatre, you say, as a cab
passes us by and sprays gutter water.
Let's just go home and drink ourselves sick.
The Hand that Shook the Devil
On both sides of the tomb, a shadow stomps
its feet into my heart. Who could be this lonely
in a dream, with no one else in the other half
but the face of a demon squinting through moonlight.
The shadow reflects from a cave where one
enters alone, filled with fear. It plays in darkness,
shuffling cards, wands, trumpets, jesters and queens.
I am the Fool stepping off a cliff, into the abyss,
with a dog at my heels, wearing the yellow
clothes of the mind. Clearly misfortune waits
at the bottom, where I've been headed for years.
Jump, says the shadow, as my feet listen.
Below, skulls snore in the grass and laugh,
mock me for thinking I wouldn't live past death.
Searching for something paranormal, I look
for God. Shuffling its way through the orchard
it plucks an apple and eats, then climbs up
a tree and dangles its feet in the autumn light.
Surprised it wears no clothes, I look up the skirt
of the limbs and notice it's a hermaphrodite.
I give thanks the leaves don't scratch its genitals.
The sun warms its back and it stretches, points
a finger at me. I'm warned that it can't stay
here forever, the rains are coming and after that
the frost and snow. Get me some garments,
it says, I can't go out in polite society like this,
people would think I'm a freak. I invite it
to wear my best pants so I won't have to look again.