Out of Season
Red tip felted, green turning
of lip entanglement:
and this in February, this lobster
claw hooking dry air, lost above
a neck of long green, maiden
breath sucked in, shock and awe
like the car wreck's approach
around a dangerous curve
by the swamp she played in
as a girl, shot arrows dipped
in brackish water for poison
and smeared with sap for decay
once burrowed inside the bodies
of her victims.
No one must
know where it came from,
this uncalled-for death by dart:
the bud feeling the sun in perigee
and listening to it, strain and push
towards its own flamboyant end.
Early spring mornings spent
in gray reflections of sky and tuft
of grass, shriek of jay blue, her cat
peering thin near a close thicket,
waiting for the girl, who is waiting
herself, bow at the ready, small Diana:
her heart a cluster, a flutter of Amaryllis.
All at once my father's clothes
are too big on him.
He has shrunken into himself like a deflated soufflé.
Hard rind, pants bagging at the waist, teeth
ground down, hair silver, wild sand.
A pot with no lid that fits, a mousetrap tricked
and left unbaited, this old, old man.
My fury at this is appalling to me.
Who am I to question these auguries,
these owls of fortune? I cannot begin
to think what he hears in the dark:
two clocks ticking, yellow emergency radio
at the ready, wound and raring to go
whether or not the power goes out
or They drop The Bomb.
Even if it's only static over ashen fields
we'll hear it.
Near him, aslant in the moonlight
through the white net curtains
his unloaded rifle waits, patient soldier.
Nobody ever asks him who it's for.
He sleeps while the moon rises over his land.
Outside a shadow falls over stilled water.
A splash through the ice on the pond
He knows it's only the muskrat
or even the beaver, who has become
somewhat more than an annoyance
but he heaves himself out of bed
before the snoring has stopped
and lets the night have at him.
He pays with the coin of open eyes.
My Brother in the VFW
My left thumb is calloused
from grading essays. I'd like to say
it was from writing in general, but
to be honest it's just from criticism.
It's almost five and dark already.
Two years ago I would have been all
gritted teeth and gray pencil shavings, a
latent headache knocking at the door,
pining for the first drink's calm lick
down my spine, my gullet.
Instead I call my brother, who
leaves his cell phone to cry
at home, back in his apartment
crammed like a mouth full of sand
with dusty guns, small lead soldiers,
and books piled to the door
under a bust of Alexander.
He just wants to go
to a room with no windows.
I've done my research
and so I know for a queasy fact
that there's a reason why bars
have stools, not benches.
Personal orbits. The future is red vinyl
and foggy mirrors ringed by Xmas lights
kept up all year long. I hear the puff
of air as the door opens, and the smell
that calls itself escape but is really despair.
I know the shadow of the door and the sun
that never makes it to the puddles on the counter.
I can smell the rag the man with a mirror to his back
squeezes into foam, into new nightmares.
At 6, my brother had recurring night terrors
of a bony finger beckoning to him.
He said it wasn't a ghost. He said
it wasn't anything he could control.
As a child my brother could get out
of anything—cribs, punishments,
eating his peas, violin lessons—
but he can't get out of this. He will never get
out of this.
Charlotte, for Chase<BR
When I showed up in school
with my tall black boots
finally replacing my Doc Martens
after all these years without shitkickers,
a girl said, You look like
someone who rides off
on a motorcycle you
yourself. I told her that's the
I was aiming for. Metaphor: at 36,
pulling weeds, grading essays, baking bread,
designing exams, and sometimes writing poems
equals a death machine on a fast track.
I hook my index finger
inside the boot's silver ankle circle,
like a bridle annex, and twist it around and around
while a student explicates a poem
or politely refutes someone's point.
I really am paying attention, but like a crow
am easily distracted by light negotiating
the surface area of shiny things.
At a poetry reading a
scholar of Zen
is wearing the same pair of boots.
I wonder where her motorcycle is,
and what she paid for it.
Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings
The Adventures of LetterMan,
zooma-zoom, O Mighty Isis, and that one lost
piece of animation: Jimi Hendrix in flagprint
telling us how to remember a loaf of milk,
a container of bread, and a stickabutta,
the youtube tune pipes out at us, thin tin:
the boy soprano telling us we know his name
while the pictures show us pleasant
deserted streets of London, and the magical
wall with its waiting ladder. Shall we
to the top? Shall we look for Simon?
Simon never quarreled with the friends
he drew for himself; in the fifteen minutes
allotted per episode, he woke up, greeted the day,
and solved some small problem
inevitably relating back to time management,
or loneliness, or something not right-sized.
For example, after visiting the museum
peopled with dinosaurs of every strata,
Simon got so excited about them he drew
one on the chalkboard. My friend snorts.
Doesn't he remember the things he draws
come true? Apparently not, for next
Simon was accosted by a bird, one of the ones
supposed to be sitting within a ring of noughts
and keeping the sun company. Imagine it!
A cure for loneliness inside a ring of nothing!
But one good solution provokes another problem:
the bird cheeped out a warning to the little boy.
Chalk trees uprooted, chalk train tracks knocked about,
chalk children unable to get to school! Come see
this mystery behind the wall—the horror, the horror!
Soon, in a rumble of feet and gnashing green jaws,
his dinosaur had swallowed everyone, even the elephant
with the upcurling trunk and the cat with the upcurling tail.
Simon had no time for the First Law of Thermodynamics,
because he was too busy creating matter to consider
destruction. But since this was Public
and British, Simon simply drew a zero around the beast,
then erased it, and drew the circle again…smaller.
And lo! A rebirth occurred, with a safer
chapbook, Elpenor Falls, is
forthcoming from dancing girl press in 2009.