David Ensminger


I could've been a well-oiled dancer, but I had a stand-off
with my dreams in the picnic area.

If there was a bastard, it was grandpa, I swear to God, the only
the man I knew that made me feel like my chest was two tectonic
plates crammed up against each other.

I dreamed of a chrysalis made of prefabricated aluminum,
cheap carpet, and the smell of Lysol and burnt toast.

Dad loved birdbaths. I broke them with stray lawn darts. He
taught me to draw nudes. I was never quite what he wanted.

In the iron tub we hid from tornadoes and the blocked out sun.

It was like living in a vending machine. I watched Johnny
Carson as dad yelled at my sister because of her bad dreams.

Grandpa was never a powerful man. He was never a stoic man.
He was never full of bravado. Couldn't make snow. Couldn't
write Don Quixote, but he made this place like some people
make newfangled gadgets. He didn't know better. He just did it.

If you collected butterflies, would you put them in here?

I think this home could answer from within if I kicked
it hard enough.

No bike racks. No sweethearts.

Everything looks better when weeds resume their traffic.

Every trailer is a perfect paragraph. Full of pots. Grace.
Hilarity. National treasures. Weaklings. Lines from the
Bible. Fiftyish men that defied calculators. Yellow-worn

What kind of man flattens the Missouri ground into a
concrete pancake, throws down a few trailers, and dies
without even taking an aspirin?

I once had a book pressed into my memory, the features
of this place. My worst-case fear is that I will remember it.

Grandpa, like a test pilot from some leftover war, was strange

Stolen utensils. Chicken pox. Blithering kids zigzagging
between lots. Such irritations shaped the recipes of our lives.

Before muscle cars and striped T-shirts,
before the SLA and bombed banks,
before the Rolling Stones stole country music,
before Nixon licked the ears of dead Cambodians,
there was this place.

Let's play voyeur. You sit in the front room
with the flies' uncertain buzz, and the plastic
covers on the furniture, and the scratchy Elvis
Presley singles. I'll eat french fries and wipe
my hand on your BMW.

I used to think the only thing I was good at
was getting the mail.

I like the row of bony trees, the white foundation
like elongated Styrofoam, the little sapling,
the row of stone teeth, utility meter.
Something whispers in there.

I'm waiting to hear the half-joking chorus
of the Monkees' song, the absence of synthesizer
technology. I'm waiting for the blue
angel of a rock'n'roll dream.

If I was religious,
I would walk into this trailer park and rebuild
Babylon under the sky the color of vacuum bags.

Trailer park rain. Neil Diamond. Eskimo kisses.

In tornado alley,
nothing softly slips --
it's all wrenched nails
from cheap 2X4's
upturned cars
propane tanks
spinning in rivers
and washtubs
holding me to this park.

If we could look back at this
place and measure manhood,
or party loyalties,
the whole new world
ripening from consciousness,
then why
can't we find where
we fell down?

I thought there could be an interchange
between the light blue trim of the trailers,
some hint of my own weakness
in the labor market, of my craving for an
egalitarian society, of why I prefer motorcycle
diaries over soft, inoculated prose.

David was born under the plastic yellow sun of Missouri, tiptoed his way through the punk rock fog of Illinois in the 1980s, went to universities in the arid long nights of New Mexico to singing Spanish Harlem, got two marriages under his belt, and now teaches at Western Oregon University and publishes a music web zine called Left of the Dial and curates a travelling punk flier show called Visual Vitriol.

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