Lady Looking

As if it matters the knobby bedspread,
a white knit she must run her hands over,
must sit here along the wall on the edge
of a tall hard New England bed built
like a sleigh. God who could sleep, could dream
of night long love in such a narrow place?
This lady dreams while sitting, of a sheer
curtain waving through eyelash vision.
She thinks how hard the west window light,
it needs a scrim, a veil. The tour passes
through, women in twos. She takes the time
to squint and breathe. But this place holds hard
ideals fast in white lace and myth; how odd
this girl’s life looks when the lady looking
could use a nice eclipse, a softening
at the edges, a dimming glare, the faint
annular shadows hooking a spread
for women through ages, looking to find
the firm hand of a constant woman
smoothing the bedspread,
smoothing, smoothing.

Posted by Chris at 01:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Darkroom Glories

I dance in here
like the stripper
I never was.
I’m in the red light
with the radio tuned
to music from the club
where men pass poppers
and know how to dance,
where women learn
to use their eyes;
glacial acetic acid
turns dark lavender,
burns my nose as the air
gets close. I bump
and roll the prints
through trays, batch process
one man’s grip and grin.
Twenty-five times
I spin from the enlarger
and grind across the floor,
imagining the walls
suddenly transparent
and in the next room
the quiet photographer
swivels to discover
his private floorshow.

And sometimes he takes off his clothes.

Posted by Chris at 11:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Juggling

The trick is to do it
alone, always alone,
to take the beanbags
in an empty room
and let the day drain out
in the constant grabbing
and letting go.
You have to be alone
to make it work.
I start easy and find
the rhythm of threes, which is
really just twos in one hand,
switching hands.
I make a game, pretend
I don’t know why
the bag is in the air,
or which hand will toss next,
at the last minute.
The trick is to make one
awkward bag seem
to hang in space,
unattached to me.
But the bags find a rhythm;
now I keep time to music,
fast fast, slow slow,
snap an overhand grab
every third throw
right, then left, then right.
I drop less often,
make heroic saves.
The phone rings, but I can’t
find a stopping place,
one toss leads to the next
and the next in a chain,
a figure eight on its side.
The clock hands lurch ahead
or seem to, I think as I catch them
in the corner of my eye.
The trick is control
the pace, I know I must
control the clock.
I go very slow now,
slowing long, high circles.
I make a game to barely
brush the ceiling
each toss. I can’t see
the clock, can’t see
my hands. I rock forward
in comforting precision,
no thump of ceiling,
just a wisp of air, and rock,
rock, rock. My eyes now
my eyes bore into the bags
and move the bags
without my hands. I squint
and the circles draw tight,
smaller and faster,
faster and close to my face,
until all I can see is a ghost
of one single bag,
now bobbing in front of my nose,
now frozen.

Posted by Chris at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Springtime in Upstate New York

It starts out like a bad dream, this thing
Northerners call Spring, like they know it,
like this drawn up, thinly lit parade
of yellow wind and tight careful budding
could pass for Spring by any definition.
Even tree branches form narrow Y’s, as if
the trees were afraid to spread, to shade,
to open generous arms to any season’s
seduction. Like when I was a girl and afraid
of men, and in backseats with boys always kept
an edge of held breath, of tightness,
never letting elbows loose and easy
from my sides, never letting sound betray
how good I felt, never knowing
how much he’d take as encouragement
and turn then to hurt me again and again.

Posted by Chris at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Found Poem—Freshman Essay

When I was young I found my body
by surprise. I got the impression
that I was going to explode.
I was young. I didn’t understand
these changes. Call them hormones. Such
a simple word for such an active thing.

One night before I went to bed
I stayed up without my mother’s knowing
and watched TV with my brothers,
watching a show where half the show
no one had on clothes. My brothers
began laughing and pointing at me.
I’m wondering what these nappy head nuts
were laughing about. When I looked down
my new spidermans were sticking up.

Now that incident I got over
because my mother sat me down
and explained to me what happened.
I thought I was sick so I got scared
and had to tell. That night I had
a dream so revealing my heart was racing.
I woke up with a smile on my face.

Posted by Chris at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Feudal Skin

Wound tight locked suburban enclaves
mini nation states security guarded
gatekeepers feed insular sensibilities
barriers against anarchy dogs
barking up the moon one lonely
crab backing up the walk really
just some dead leaves a footstep
from dust an edgy wind stirs up
streetlight cones cut by skater
punks slumming in safety staying
stoned, whispering the mantra,
"Hunker down here, stay."

Posted by Chris at 10:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Memory, Moon

“The Tint I cannot take - is best -
The Color too remote
That I could show it in Bazaar -
A Guinea at a sight -”
Emily Dickinson, #627

The new moon mid-sky at sundown
rides on a band of this,
a color between two colors,
a tint I cannot take.

The display vaults over a field
where I throw things for my dog—
blue-black with a hint of yellow
against the bone-white moon.

The secret repressed in landscape
seems to stay repressed.
Emily probably knew it.
All I can do is guess

that it lies in the change of season,
an absence of haze in the air.
The sky breaks out with that color,
slicing a gash in time.

Beyond that edge of light or sight
or history, where time
is said to curve, she sits and waits
for one to call out

of the fading hue. I listen here
half-thinking she might be
calling me. My dog romps past,
disappears into the blue-gray tulle

that drapes across the hillside,
leaving me with the moon
and hints of a memory yet unlived
to find my way back home.

Posted by Chris at 10:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jazz Poem

Weedy grass grows
here, see? And chick-peas,
and long, winding vines,
notes that curl around my throat
then stretch out to choke you.

These are the blues
that want to be fusion.
They walk the string bass
up and down my spine
until my elbows ache
on the inside, to hold you.

They’re the same notes struck
over and over like a snare
on the piano —
syncopated high G —
and I hate how I take them
and play them off you.

They’re the velvet sax quilts
I roll on with a fever,
and wrap about myself
to trail through the house,
and begin life without you.

Posted by Chris at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dreaming of a song

A tinny version of Stardust
on a grey metal music box
cut off abrupt as the lid slid—
a rasping slide, a broken note—
into its recessed groove.

I clip the notes, again, again.
Push and stop, slide and play,
rewind and play some more, a child
alone upstairs. Shadows crawl
across the angled wall all afternoon
in Grandma’s clean but musty shrine
to my grown aunt, her school banner,
painted radiator, taut bed,
polished cedar chest, and Stardust.

Sometimes I wonder why
children are enthralled by repetition,
until the day I heard someone play
those blues, deep, drowning, smooth.
That melody haunts my revery
imprinted on a chalk-white room
and the fullness of ideal.

Posted by Chris at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Be Easy

Wear it like a loose shirt, maybe silk,
maybe stuck to some sweat
in the middle of your back.

It is easy to be here after the long drive
above Lake Ponchartrain. Everything hangs low
but the graves, vaulted cities.

Seamless August nights on Bourbon Street
are for tourists. If this were Disney
they’d charge thirty bucks to get in.
But it isn’t, and you are one, so go on.
Stay drunk and you won’t notice
the money leaving your wallet.

Fall in love with a Jimmy Buffet-singing surfer
with cascading blond hair and amazing longevity.
Fuck away the afternoons at Le Richeleau.
Leave your hair loose and long like his and
wear miniskirts, with little bells around your ankles.

Love the blues.

Or discover Bloody Mary oblivion
and 7 p.m. technopop with dry ice fog.
Haunt a Blackjack machine now because
later you will sing Otis Redding’s hits
to an empty Karioke bar.

Leave the sad sex show with overweight strippers
for the fake orgasm contest down the street.

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Posted by Chris at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Statement

I am
a delicate gymnast,
bending, contorting
to your corset around my mind,
stays cinched tightly.

To you I am
sexless, a sock, a sheath,
a receptacle for the
phallus and a
hole in the mud.

Know me.

I am hot enough to burn
centuries of chastity
and wet enough to put
your fire out,
if I choose.

I am
an unashamed dancer,
prancing, whirling
around an empty hall,
my thin robe catching in the air.

Posted by Chris at 10:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pixelated Edges

Late night squinting
through online novels,
I scroll seamless pages
in a phosphorescent glow.
Night holds me like a sister
spooning as hours pass
beyond sleep, beyond waking,
neither lived nor dreamed.
Breathed in ozone, brain
neurons starved dry and thin,
ring with electronic vibration
that gives texture and imprint.
Pause for milk and cereal,
let the dogs out, find a chat.
Nights run together,
untroubled by day.
Diana's coffin rolls
in unending procession;
Xena plays as wallpaper;
psychics gesture on mute.
Cyber fictions thread around and
through, calling each evening,
dissolving into shadows
comforting corners. Outside
snow or summer cicadas
matter less. Happy and dark,
my fogged sense gropes, flexes,
angles, leans, circles, hones.

Posted by Chris at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Intimate With Owls

When this lady calls,
barred owls gather,
swoop silent into black trees,
etched against the speckled night.

Earlier in a bright classroom,
the students tittered, acted embarrassed
when she did the screech
or twisted her head from side to side.
They studied the design of its noiseless feathers.
They dissected its pellets, teasing bones of mice
or beaks of small birds
out of lumps of dry leavings.

When they’re ready, she takes them to the woods,
locks them into the dark, no one laughing now.

The peculiar call echos distant, then near,
eerie in its inflection, variation, and tone,
as if this were a conversation
so important a student asks,
“What’s she saying?”

But on nights without an audience
I’ve known her to glide
over a pair of roaming coyotes,
disturbing dogs outside chickenhouses
and startling deer across the field.

Posted by Chris at 10:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Kids this Year–1993

for Daniel

The summer before they’ll be seniors,
they come, and every year I watch as they
posture and flirt on break from class.
The Young Republicans and the group
that could not wait to marry,
then the new rebels who came to strut
in ponytails masculine as Samson
or arty and loud as the girls in black
army boots and wild colored hair,
and this year yet they’re different
and I hope it sticks. The kids this year

are quiet and cluster outside to smoke,
not for attention or to look like James Dean.
As unimportant as holding a pencil
they tap a cigarette from the pack
and slouch and drag in doorways,
tiredly seeming to say I’m doing my best
to get along with it all, so just let me be.
And I do admire them and their old-looking eyes,
their sagging shoulders and skinny necks
in baggy shirts and skinny legs in baggy shorts
with retro hippy sandals. I have a flash
that comes from nothing I know except
to squint at the undaunted slouch,
their party-hardened casual retreat
from an underwhelming world and life,
and see survivors from another time.
I lengthen their smokes into cigarette holders,
lean them against jalopies, drinking bathtub gin,
add baggy suits, or headbands and feathers,
and love that old life back into them.

Posted by Chris at 10:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I dreamed of a boy named Jonathan

He had round brown eyes that looked up
when I saw him, folded shut,
then opened to meet me again.
Then abruptly they slid over,
went blank– and he died without breath.
I yelled for the nurses who
quickly revived him, found him
an incubator, gave him more breath.
I waited to meet the baby’s eyes again.

In my dream he was a Jonathan
and I don’t know why his eyes held news
of the ages, or why his warm
recognition was for me. In life
I am childless, not planning for children.
In a dream in my dream he told me
how air breathed like water, that
the drops from the nurses soothed his throat,
that he was tired, my baby blue.
And I could no more leave his side
or his born-knowing eyes
than I could will myself to wake
from my fluid sleep.

Posted by Chris at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Garnette and Judy, Tea and Cobbler

Lead sky, deadening rain
streams over the eaves
in this haven we've made for an afternoon
of new friends and poetry.
A housewarming of sorts,
candles and Kitaro, red soft and dark
and every inch saturated with the breath
of bubbling blackberry cobbler.

Once when I was lonely my idols came down
and sat themselves in my kitchen,
murmured over steaming chamomile,
orange peel, and cinnamon. Cups clinked
saucers and I found a place to heal.

Vanilla ice cream slid like a litany
over what fresh blackberries can create
in a golden crust, a taste approaching heaven,
or a worshipful imitation, given the rain,
quiet tones, candlelit dark day,
and tea to cut the sweetness.

Time life death rains us down.
Let us always be here.
Amen please for Garnette?

Posted by Chris at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Boomtown Winter

Here in the land of Cessna and moose
and commuters to Anchorage
who drive to work in the dark,
and drive back home in the dark,
it’s video heaven—I take home grocery bags
of movies—and hear the news of that woman
they found dissected in the gravel pit
out in Shorewood Acres Subdivision,
or my classmate who shot his parents
in their bed on Christmas Eve,
the eighth grader who raped his teacher,
or the gang of pit bulls up the road.
Here, in this midday night,
the suddenly rich and newly divorced
buy snowmachines and meth,
as howling Chinook Winds melt water
on glare ice, and the never-ending
night terrors in the never-ending
night chase herds of three-wheelers
through ditches lined with loose nails.

Meanwhile one shining sliver of pipe
angles through snowfields and passes.
A round iron pig rumbles down inside.
Sensors gauge the inner walls
for weak spots, deformities, incipient cracks
as it pushes black crude to Valdez.

Posted by Chris at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alaska Widowed

Watching the water pipes, the woodstove,
the sun creep from the southern shoulder
of Pioneer Peak around noon, I’m empty
and bitter with cold and winter-crazy,
and worse, things you couldn’t know
unless you phone soon.

But you don’t or you won’t,
because you’ve got no steady phone,
or you might have found a job,
or you’re drunk and in a bar.

I tried calling the kids, but neither would answer.
They’ve flown from what we expected,
from what this place promised in the oil boom.

I’m alone with the mortgage on a street of foreclosed houses.
Took the car in for a brake job like you told me to do.
To be poor at our age feels like newlyweds struggling—
Of course you had to leave. Of course I had to stay
to take out the loan for a $300 electric bill
and keep the pipes from freezing.

It’s always been this way
since you used to work the Slope,
six weeks on, one week off,
missed birthdays and Thanksgiving.
We fought the week of Christmas
so much the kids were glad to see you go.
I was glad to see the sun come back that year.
On nights like this I’m not sure if it ever will.
But there must be someone to talk to,
somewhere south, where there's light.

Posted by Chris at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Curving images overlap in place

M: What if I had stayed
hunkered in the Ozarks
while you fed your head,
let the land go as dry oatmeal?

E: If you had stayed
with your mushy metaphysics,
Magician? Your Thoreau was
a construction of his mother’s
trips with groceries. You are
what you eat. I make it grow.

M: Who eats now, fields dull and heavy
with wilting wheat? You call and
I’m your rainmaker. You can’t even
feed me. I ride on the updrafts,
hot, fiery dervishes I seed
with dust and water. Some Great
Mother, eight dirty faces waiting
behind your skirts, waiting to feed
on your empty bounty, and me,
22 and honest, I come to serve
the image that swirls between us.

E: You conjure only vapor! Reflecting
water droplets, leftover smoke seeds.
You make a fiction, all is a fiction.
Go back to your Ozarks. This ground
need not grow; if it did, who would know?

MORE...

Posted by Chris at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Dance

I went to this place and I danced the dance.
Many times I had danced it, yet none like this.
Many times it had found me, yet none so clear
as this test-tube shot-driven, fog machine
oblivion of this night of the dance, begun
as any other in the place of my people,
we the invisible in the club of our own.

Among the cool rush of our assembled faces,
cropped hair, smooth cheeks, strong chin lines,
the tribe becomes genetically clear. We
follow the fashion of lean angular boys
disappear into dance and forget we are white,
if we are. More like a third thing transcends it,
outside color and gender. If it does, we are
it, something other, inside, underneath.
The undercurrent, a subculture that moves
through all and in all, we dance through your lives.
Only some can see us. All can feel us.
Some can’t tell just what it is. Now bolder,
we proclaim straights a shell upon our culture.
We make you look at the beauty, at the fullness
of our dance. And some of you are jealous.

And some of you would hurt us. Some of you
have. As on this night when I danced the dance
for my freedom, from the rumors at work,
assumptions of friends who thought they were cool,
for the job I might lose, the promotion I won’t
get. I danced for a magic spell, frenzied,
lost, unaware of my moves, shucking
my clothes, my color, my sex, my skin.

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Posted by Chris at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Through the Glass

I see meadows and hills.
Just over that bridge
and around the bend
must be a carousel
and jugglers.

I can’t step through
the curved glass,
but with a long, snaky arm
to point and drag and click,
I play an improved version
of the old claw game.

Collecting electronic trinkets,
so intent I lose myself,
I incarnate the rolling claw,
solo single-wheeled
over lazy country roads,
explore an expanding universe,
multiplying one thousandfold.

Posted by Chris at 04:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Through the Glass II

Sometimes the face
watching through the glass
leaves and we sleep,
our energy sapped
until it returns.

We can’t remember
who came first, a pioneer.
We’re too closely cloned
to recite a lineage.
Some crash, get deleted,
become old and inactive.

They say we have an afterlife
but no one has ever
gone through to the face
and come back to tell.
Some say we are part of God
and some are building a rocket.
We may soon see.

Posted by Chris at 04:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alone

stomps out giant snow memos
for airplanes and God,
skiis straight down a rut
and takes the rest of the day
sidestepping back to the top,
as the wind blows her face leather.

reads by flashlight under covers
surrounded by varnished knotty pine
monster eyeballs and bogeys
who whisper and breathe
through the floor furnace grate.

races down a milkweed trail,
deep into a dark green cave,
climbs the broadest tree to watch
naked lovers wrestle in tall grass.

and there, poised in the branches,
learns at last to say
her name.

Posted by Chris at 04:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Midwest Hometown

Elms and old ladies hold church
while barefoot town kids run wild.

1
Nights of orange and black in old hooded jackets unzipped,
chasing little boyfriends by the snowfenced endzone,
leaving clouds of breath hanging in the air.
We race behind the bleachers and big kids spit
from the top row.

2
Snowplow mountains reach the playground fence top.
No one dares tongue it. Mom makes me wear a dress
once a week; snow cakes on my thin blue tights.
Inside after recess, puddles form under my desk
as my legs melt.

3
Wild rivers rage to corner curb and gutter
from the church parking lot. We make small boats
of cork and bark to run the rapids. Plowing
through puddles on bikes sends water spray patterns
behind the wheels.

4
Elms arch over the street in a cathedral ceiling.
Crying or chanting, I pedal along popping
wheelies, burning skids. To Alaska, to Alaska,
Dad says we are leaving. Coasting into the sunshine
I tell the elms goodbye.

Posted by Chris at 04:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bumpa

1
Boney hands cup my knees,
he shoves me backward and I swing
down, down, then up —
high over rows of sweet corn,
string beans and radishes,
holding the ropes and yelling
“Higher, Grandpa! Higher!
Give me underdogs!”

2
Sunday afternoon football announcers
bite through the air. Grouchy
and rumpled after church,
he comes from the kitchen
with Martinis and Old Fashioneds.
I jump from my toys
and dance around the chair,
to beg for his bitter olive.

3
Breathing through frozen crust
on my red scarf wrapped to the nose,
I tip back to watch them pull my dad’s buck
up the black walnut by my swing.
Proud of his son and his old gun,
Grandpa holds it for me
to smell in the breach,
as if one day the gun could be mine.

4
Four men try to follow
his smoking chain saw;
we pick brush from the snow and toss it
to the bonfire. No one can keep up.
I stop to watch his jerky, driven speed
clearing this Wisconsin wood
and a thick burning ash
lights on my stocking cap.

*****

Christmas Day driving, I speed across Texas.
The holiday radio sings faint nostalgia,
nighttime and snow at Grandpa’s house.
Not this.
Not missing his paralyzed Christmas,
disease eroding his muscles,
as I sit without a fuel pump
in Refugio.

Posted by Chris at 04:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deer Hunting in Wisconsin

See here is where they take their hunting
seriously, unlike folks in the South,
standing by pickups and sending out dogs;
or in the Far North and West, with small planes
and guides. Midwestern hunting is both life
and ritual, backyard and boondocks, with snow.

Lots of it, snow boots, snow suits, snow
steaming off the pile of wool, sweaty with hunt
smells: beer, tobacco, unshaven beards, life
by the stove in a crowded cabin. Go south
and find folks half-dressed, on a stroll, plainly
leaving the hunt to their hard-working dogs.

Try tracking through deep snow and see whose dogs
are tired. Take a stand at ten below, snow
paints a frozen daydream, the swamp a smooth plane
for deer to cross before the drive. You hunt
in a frame of iced branches. Look south
for the thin yellow sun, losing light, life.

In the Far North and West are folks who live
to hunt. Fanatics pay plenty to dog
a guide through distant woods. Farther south
the woods are deep and known, families snow-
bound year after year at Thanksgiving, hunting
with no set trophy for boarding a plane.

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Posted by Chris at 04:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Charlie Rihn Shuffle

An angry old man who rode eight kids
with a deck of cards through the Depression.
What you want? Euchre? Buc Euchre? Sheephead?
Cribbage? Cows are milked, chores done, so come on
youse kids and let's start up some Sheephead.
They didn't own a radio; their mother died in '35,
so skinny Melvin and Al, grown-up Gib and Herb,
buxom young Margie and Dorothy (The other girls
been married off, but bring their husbands home to play)
move in around the table for Charlie's nasty shuffle,
three quick swipes pulled from the bottom
and "Deal, dammit."

Now Charlie's been dead a lot of years.
Three more young ones carry his name.
And he's still mean, shining out of his kids
and their kids when they break out decks of cards.
They bark and bite and swallow beer
at parties only relation can stomach,
most men down the cement basement,
women and milder in-laws up,
and a dozen card tables and mean German games,
with Sheephead the meanest, as in
"You horse's prat, why the hell did you play that?"
and "That was my goddamned trick, you bastard!"
Exuberant loud abuse roars through the stairwell
where Charlie's kids' kids' kids run beer from the tap,
shuffle between tables, ducking the cuff
if they're slow. They top a sip off each delivery
and add spit for the spirit of Charlie.

Posted by Chris at 04:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rival

We never made love.
We never played doctor.
I never knew you past age twelve,
and I still hate.

I dream you at forty
taking care of your mother,
thick chest and neck, narrow chin,
same glasses.

One year we tried
to go junior high steady.
Everyone thought of us together,
the top of the class.

Constantly fighting in math,
racing to finish our homework and play
chess. You studied famous matches,
gloating when you won.

My dream is oddly sexual,
seventies carpet, swag lamps. Your mother
asks me to wait. You come in and I see
I have resurrected a ghost.

I heard you had gotten God
when they made you quarterback,
went on to seminary, you who
taught me to curse.

You ruled the recess football games
and wouldn’t pass to me. I crashed
your dad's little league team,
a hated girl.

I was best in English and science.
I read more. You couldn’t stand it.
Called me a libber. Wanted me
out of your way.

In my dream we talk.
You’re distracted. I’m obsessed,
oversexed. You lean thickly away,
uninterested.

But when I moved away you won
valedictorian unchallenged.
I quit trying, the way girls of twelve
become average.

Posted by Chris at 04:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

When the Circus Came

The Rumor

I was at the age
of banana seats and sissy bars
and cards clipped against my spokes
when I heard Steve Dutton tell
Jeff Kostner at the beach
(and Jeff told Paul and Jay)
that if you went to the fairgrounds at sunup
you could help set up the tents
and earn a free ticket.

I heard it and held it like a grain of sand
under my tongue. By the time I biked home
it was a pearl I could barely contain.
My mother refused to wake me at dawn,
but she never said I couldn’t go.

I slipped out to empty, pink streets,
pedalled across town and didn’t see another kid,
and thought maybe Steve was lying.

But the guys had gone in groups,
driven by their parents, mostly.
They weren’t surprised to see me
and sneered among themselves.
The circus hands saw my short hair
and cutoffs and thought I was a boy.

Setup

Heavy canvas spread flat across the field.
No elephants were helping; we muscled up
fifteen foot poles around the edges. I hustled
into a dusty sweat. On break the boss picked me,
said, “This boy is working the way the rest of you
should be.” Steve told him. The boss grinned
and raised his eyebrows, but didn’t let me take
the long part of the pole after that.

Our poles propped up the main tent’s sides
like spindly spider legs around a sunken center.
But we left the poles leaning out at sharp angles.
Elephants pulled ropes trailing under the canvas
and then the tent rose on long angled poles
hidden under the middle.

We were too little now to do more than watch.
But the elephants stopped with their poles leaning out
at dangerous angles. By then it was noon,
two hours to the show. The boss passed out tickets
and sent us all home.

But when I got in I found out my folks
had already bought tickets to the night show,
for the whole family. I’d never worked so hard.

MORE...

Posted by Chris at 04:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Alumni Game

So now we run up and down the court
as if we never left. Old drills and plays
get pulled from memory in mid-dribble.
Thirty pounds thicker, I get a side-stitch
pounding it down and laying it up.
Later I spot you acting nonchalant.
You practice your backspin while you try
to remember the fast break we ran to death.
You glance around, too nervous, embarrassed,
to snap towels, spit water, or drop my shorts.

Yet at our reunion tea you were angry
and snapped at me over eggnog; you sneered
at the plastic tongue that kept falling from
my dad’s smallish bearhead on the wall.
I recall you didn’t like the cookies either.
Instead you preached the wondrous Alaska Bush,
a clearer world, where life is measured by
the rifle scope you got your sourdough-bearded
husband for Christmas and how much moose
you could pack on your broad back, strong enough
to score baskets with defenders hanging on.
I wanted to tell you about the South,
its drive-thru funeral homes and liquor stores,
its schools that close for a half inch of snow.
I had wanted to relive old days, old pranks.

MORE...

Posted by Chris at 04:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lost and Found

Two thirds of any creek flows underground. When it dissipates into a dry bed, you can’t see the sinkhole because it’s filled with rocks.
That water could pop up farther on, anywhere.”
A Park Ranger.

The third time we broke up I rediscovered camping.
I’d set out into rocky cliffs with a backpack and a dog
that liked to fetch snakes.

By the bluffs of the Buffalo
a dry creek bed
wears down round rocks.

Folks in lawn chairs drink beer and hoot
as canoes tump over in white water at Gray Rock.
I meet an old friend I had lost to the break-up.
It was her idea, springtime in the Ozarks,
to hike up the creek bed until we find water.

Deep and cold,
algae pools about to slide
over sharp boulders,
churn in ravines,
then disappear.

She tells me you might come with the group arriving later.
I catch myself breathing and sneer that you don’t camp.
She quietly adds that you know I’m here.

Notice fiddlehead ferns
sprouting on the ledge back,
tiny buttercups and violets.
Grasp ironwood handholds
on the slick sides of the ridge.
The water below comes and goes.

We hold a campsite for a party of five,
get drunk and try to bury a real hatchet.
I fuss with the tent stays
to keep from watching the road.

And that day nothing felt so fine
as glancing around the edge of the tent
to your quick smile pulling me to the surface.

Posted by Chris at 04:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Last Days of a Witch: Sarah Cloyce

At first I didn’t hear the whispers,
didn’t understand how this could happen,
not to me. I thought it didn’t show
if I didn’t show it. I smiled. I talked.
I fixed my hair and pressed my creases.
People seemed to take me in. Their children
became my friends. I carved into my life
a solitary path, pure and wretched.
I kept away from my sisters, Rebecca and Mary,
planted a flag in my property and integrity
and only told one lie: my past.
I had no shame, but I had to pass.

Samuel, Samuel, where are you now?
I need you to testify on my behalf.

I certainly would have gone unnoticed
if I lived in a place that wasn’t fearing
its shadow, that wasn’t looking
hard and condemning innocents.
I need to get serious! I can’t pretend
I will not hang or burn. I must
find a place where they can’t reach me.
The children, God, the children talk loose,
unaware of who dangles on their empty prattle.
Once I didn’t have to hear it.
Now I don’t have to care. But I do.

Send message to Samuel, I’m in Boston Jail.
If I’m still here tomorrow I surely will hang.

I caught their babies, nursed and taught.
I deigned not to bleed them half to death.
For what I’ve done this is what I will get:
escape in a hay wagon in ignoble night,
no recourse to address their wrongs,
to name myself with pride and wear
rejection openly, to hang at the end
of their power and fear. I will not!
Let this haystack burn in their small minds.
Tomorrow I’ll be gone, but I won’t be

Posted by Chris at 04:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Remembering Alice

A small graveside ceremony with no blood relatives.
We who have come as neighbors and friends
find no lack, for in her life so her death.
I learn she had been a teacher.

In the 1930s she reached
across continents and politics
for students. They called it history
but she taught life and they learned
all around. Few knew she left family
a continent away to take her master's and a job
in the Depression. The Rural South took history
and when she died at seventy-eight
some remembered life and came.

She was my neighbor. She watched my cats.
But I worked alone, thinking white hair,
bright eyes, small stature could not pull
me from empty rooms, bottled days.
I am a teacher. I left family and friends
a continent away to take my master's and job
in the dark heat of the South.

At the funeral I discover her students,
a continent of ice floating beneath
the small white house next door.

Posted by Chris at 04:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I am John

He and I work together
to stay in control;
I keep his hair
slicked back, I am his teeth,
the saliva clicking
in the sides of his tongue
when he says “This is the way
we must do the things we do.”
I steel the edge in his eyes
as he checks his watch
and rubbernecks to see
if anyone could be shirking
their duties. I am his glee
when he writes on the calendar
that Florence left at 2:30,
and Chris malingered at the fountain.
I eat John’s fingernails—
we grow thin and bitter,
no one answers our memos,
people go over our head.

So we watch TV more often.
I doze, John prays, for respect,
and if not respect, then power.
And the TV preacher says, “With Jesus,
you have the power to do anything.”
John especially likes that part,
so I make his scalp crawl
for sheer joy in that power.

Posted by Chris at 04:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mother in Church

Distracted by trucks rumbling past the window
and fat Mrs. Fox singing slightly off-key,
Mother slips her shoe off to scratch her big toe
and hums "Redeemer Lives!" between her teeth.
When Pastor calls the children from their seats
for an object lesson, she turns to Dad and grins
pale fluorescent pink. The simple sermon begins.

The children are just an excuse to talk plain
to adults, and to smile at all the cute kids.
But the sermons get old and become a pain.
People stare out the window instead,
and kids don't go up as they usually did.
But Mother's thoughts slide to her vacant pew
and Pastor's dull ramblings on what they should do

to bring wayward brood back into the fold.
But "Suffer the children" and Pastor's old shoe
only serve remind her that her kids just got old,
found trouble and shame, as many kids do,
and her trouble was that half the church knew.
She watches the Bracewell kids as they walk past,
shakes her head sadly; they were growing so fast.

Released and reprieved, she files out of the hall,
shakes hands with Pastor, who asks too politely
about Sam, and did they let Julie back in school?
"Yes, yes, fine fine," she mutters, pushing to leave.
She picks across the snow, holding Dad's sleeve
to reach the sanctuary of the car heater
and the distraction of the Sunday paper.

Posted by Chris at 04:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My House, My Fire

Released for a month to my own inclinations
to claim a time when work won't chase me home,
today I dug out boxes of decorations,
bought a tree, lit a fire, looking
to spend this Christmas alone. This year
I run from adoptive families, TV holidays.
This too can be bliss: to do my own work;
still reading a novel at 6 a.m., fighting
for covers with a cat and two dogs; to roam
in poems and disappear into stories;
to sit in the dark and watch the tree flicker.
The black dachshund cocks a comical brown eyebrow
in the sidelight, warm by the spark screen,
his first Christmas to worry the bottom ornaments.
A runt golden retriever plays mother, remembers
that stockings hold wrapped rawhide chews.
And the old orange cat curls over a blank TV,
switches the screen with her tail.

Somewhere in Wisconsin I have relatives
happily doing the family thing,
and if I were there I'd be drunk and laughing
over scrabble or dishes or a jigsaw puzzle.
But somewhere in Alaska on Christmas day
my brother will sit editing videotape,
making commercials. My dad will be
at a Bush power plant, making electricity.
And my mother and I, five time zones apart,
will sit in our bathrobes with our anthropomorphic pets
and talk awhile. We may wonder how we stopped
resembling Christmas, for surely we keep the spirit.
Then she will go and play on her computer
and I will go and make a poem.

Posted by Chris at 04:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wine Bottle

Green glass gallon penny womb
keeps its bottom covered
with worthless copper.
Listen now with one ear
to stories of luck and pockets,
washing machines, and penny fights
on the back of the schoolbus.

Posted by Chris at 04:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gravel

Be sharp, be loose, be gone
in a scatter,
but mostly just lie still,
aiming for gas tanks
and windshields.
Dream of the good life
back at the pit,
catching clay pigeons,
ricocheting shot,
boasting of cars
swallowed whole, so they say,
as fragile ledges collapse.

Posted by Chris at 04:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Love

flickers behind the butter keeper
as barefoot on cold linoleum,
I dance with the door,
wave a glow across the kitchen,
shadows on my cave.
God I could eat my heart
for a hunk of cheese; I find
toast crumbs in the jelly,
dark wilted lettuce leaves,
old frosting, rich but dry,
buttertubs of leftovers
and nothing I would eat.
I shuffle back to bed
hungry.

Posted by Chris at 04:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nightmare

I am in a room
in the dark.
Light bleeds under
the door before me
and the door behind me.
I find a knob and enter.
The light goes out.

I am in a room
in the dark.
Light bleeds under
the door before me
and the door behind me.
I find the knob and go on.
The light goes out

and I am in a room
in the dark.

Posted by Chris at 04:06 AM | Comments (0)

Dear Heart

I miss you most on nights like this,
after unimportant days,
an indifferent dinner, the rainy chill;
a knot felt here, on the sides of my ribs,
the meat of my shoulders, or the flesh
before my ears. Your voice will meet me
twice a night, more, if I am lucky,
on a wire that replicates the thinnest
part of you. We change our news
after dinner. And late you'll tuck
me in. For a fee we stretch our passion
into vocal tones, a cruel trick
my ear believes. But my shoulders
ribs and cheek are so betrayed
by the sounds low in your throat
that they react on verbal cue
and lean over to touch the air,
tangible air! like the ghost limb
of an amputee, or empty air,
before the thunder rushes in
to fill the space the lightning left.

But on these slow descending nights
I hold a wire to a distant storm.
The lightning is all I have of you.

Posted by Chris at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)

I don't miss you at all

This is my day, here miles away
from you in time and space: I come
home from work and watch TV.
Most times I haunt a booth at the cafe
and drink throat-searing glasses
of unsweetened ice-cold tea, with lemon.
No, I don't miss you at all.

I did once but that is gone,
which leaves me here with just my day,
which loses something when I tell it,
so let me explain: I have friends
who visit me or call. But I bite back
like a lemon as you know, so they go
away. But I really don't miss you at all.

Then there's work, those kids who want
to steal a piece of me, or get an easy A.
They own my day, or they own me. Inbetween
I grab my mind and press it, like silly putty,
over what I read, and save a mirror image,
garbled, unmemorable, stretched and gray.
Who are you, did you say?

Oh yeah, the one that I once loved.
You said you'd wait and so did I.
We tried. But now my day is more alive
than you are to me. I come home to leaping dogs
that I ignore. They can't break the blank stare
I wear. Oblivion burns a dull, steady ground fire.

Posted by Chris at 04:05 AM | Comments (0)

Why I have trouble staying sober and writing an honest poem

Because the scrim over the 1790s is as fogged
as an English countryside,
as a rustic loose in the big city,
as the bottom of my glass.

Because a hawk is a hawk and little death
is still death, the telltale look of agony,
and no matter how deeply I Miniver Cheevy,
metaphor or symbol, I am caught in the certainty
of your turning away.

Because Emily waited for nothing, and even
as I love her, I cannot become her.

Because faith is overrated.

Because your eyes set pace on my pulse
from across the room, and holding force
with them trembles my mind unguarded.

Because in my dream you stroke my forehead
warm as a poultice, and our words
can only whisper between kisses
for their warm-breathed intimacy.

Posted by Chris at 04:04 AM | Comments (0)

Black

Magnetic eyes flash me,
and I want them,
want you, want all of you.
You are moonlight on my mind,
a force from the earth electromagnetic,
a deep voice that laughs low
and honest from a place I can't.
(This is not a racist poem!)
because I love you, love all of you
with an attraction that can only be racist.

Black as the woman
dancing at a queer bar
who flashes me a tit across the floor,
I take it as a sign and in our drunken dance
time becomes pure motion
and I visit the place
where the laugh starts.

Black as the man
who lets me on the playground
where white boys close ranks.
I flip him the ball high in the key
and soaring he slams it home.
We go to his room and play chess
with wine and cheese and whispers
low and hot.

MORE...

Posted by Chris at 04:03 AM | Comments (0)

Dryads

So green
and only fifteen
cradled in the rough arms
of my white oak tree

Sunlight blurs edges
seeping through the leaves
Wisps of loose hair frame her cheeks

I bring her a chorus of morning
“pee-ooo-ee’s” high in the branches
and with slow moving wonder
she tips her head back and laughs
from her throat

We shake the broad boughs
and trace paths through bark
until fingers brush fingers
and eyes question eyes
and the tree grows another ring

I want to peel back the bark
and share the secret of my tree
to read in its dark grain
how our lives could be
but she is only sprouting
and so green so green

Posted by Chris at 04:00 AM | Comments (0)

Darkly Possessive

A response to Coleridge's unfinished poem "Christabel'

Deeper than a demon this woman burrows.
Her eyes cast about in bolts, a specter
pinching, tormenting her way through
my chest, my blood, my veins, dark purple,
oxygen-spent, and burdened. She
can make bad blood rise high in my breast,
sing a cagey tune, a blocked desire,
played out, not played out, never
played out, always played out.

On the surface Christabel lives
an adolescent romance moved in castle,
engagement with a fairy tale knight
to wear on her arm and kiss, enough
of a rebel prince to disturb Sir Leoline.
An ambitious career princess with eyes
like a goddess, smiling and dangerous,
while in her mind, selectively blind.
For fairy tales erode from within
and so does this, a bed turned cold
while passion seethes. Appearances strain.
Public kisses turn away into air.
She cannot see her own masquerade.

The rebel prince is restless. He bites
against the sweetness like vinegar on chips,
he misses lines, rides off on claims
of errantry, and worst of all, befriends
Bard Bracy, who wants only his passion,
not his throne, though one day he may
have both or neither.

MORE...

Posted by Chris at 04:00 AM | Comments (0)

A Funny Valentine to the One I Can’t Love

Yes, that’s right, you over there,
the one I mean, walking past.
You could be anyone, of course,
but I still can’t love you, so don’t
expect anything. I’m off today,
this week, this year. I’m out of the
running, whoever you are,
attractive stranger, familiar friend,
meter reader, cop on a beat,
homeless person-- it just wouldn’t
work out. I’m not one of those
people afraid to plunge. I used
to fall hard and fast. Forget
infatuation, let’s tie the knot.
No casual flings, once I was in,
you were stuck. I didn’t
flirt or disappear for hours
or days. Reliable, steady, good
with kids, holding a passion
that wouldn’t fade but always did,
though not for me. So you see,
you should just walk past,
stay away, remain a piece of
that shadow already gone
because I couldn’t love you,
or you, or you... I couldn’t
possibly begin to love you
in particular right now you see
because I already want you
more than you can stand.

Posted by Chris at 03:56 AM | Comments (0)

I mop

stop, have some pie,
take my ongoing
great white housecleaning
in thin slices
broken by wry
phone calls,
morning-strained
like orange juice,
from friends I haven’t met
who somehow know me.
These people call
to unload laundry,
pantries, closets, and so,
phone pinned to my shoulder,
I mop.

Posted by Chris at 03:56 AM | Comments (0)

Primal

I wanted you but I didn’t know why.
I sat home, clinging to the telephone,
parched as dry grass to cry and cry,
I howled my loss, betrayed and left alone
for empty air to suffocate my skin.
Across thin wires you promised better days,
held back judgement of the odd world I live in
and said you’d come. This love of yours that stays
steady while others fade, that brings you here
to lighten my house with knickknacks and smiles,
it burrows into me to ease my fears,
as if I could still be a child. Three miles
or three thousand, the result is the same.
You are my mother. I cried and you came.

Posted by Chris at 03:54 AM | Comments (0)

Portents and Parts

Smoke-stung, my eyes squint through incense,
nose itches from patchouli and a sage ash catcher.
She lays lovers reversed and a hermit upright
over glass rings from bourbon and ice.
And by God I'm ready--
ready to rebound and see some action
or string someone on though the U.S. Mail
or kiss on a face huddled close and easy,
ready to hurt again as the old hurt fades
sitting long alone with empty sentiments in poems
when a bed and warm skin leaves me giddy for days.
So let's drink to forget and get fired ‘cause we forgot
to go to work. Lady lean your parts over here
and deal those cards again.

Posted by Chris at 03:53 AM | Comments (0)

Aliens

Past where Venus is socked with clouds
and raging storms, rides a blue-green marble,
not baked like Mercury or hostile Mars,
or gaseous Jupiter with moons
out-posted like road signs,
the angry pimple Io warning “Keep out!”
Icy Europa adding, “Don’t come back.”

Mesmerized by swirls of blue and green
so close to Venus, it was love,
it was the natural place for them to go.

The fate of the home planet
is carefully hidden here.
No trace of the craft that brought them,
or the passion that could build it,
but their oldest cultural memories:
a glimpse of a sinking island
and anxiety at the thickening clouds.

Posted by Chris at 03:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deflated

This I must remember
and the people I love
yet the vague crush--
hot air pressure--
and I feel the face
the balloon vendor makes.

I am floating tethered heating up
and I don’t know why
she has no passion
for me perhaps
no passion at all.

Stretching I burn
for her reach toward her,
brushed away batted
bumping bruising storing
swollen yellow bile.

Bursting out suddenly I know
how I would like to hit her
and hit her around the room
off walls screaming screeching
beating her to love me,
love me?

Posted by Chris at 03:49 AM | Comments (0)

The Taste

Metallic and bitter
as a chipped filling
on my back molar,
dead ache ebbs down
to the roots as
my tongue rolls over
the rough edge, I stand
in supermarket lines
turning over in my mind
how, innocently cleaning,
I found the hidden envelope,
noted familiar handwriting,
from my lover to my friend—
that letter pledging
its forever and evers,
and all the so muches,
oh yes I love you so much,
I miss you so much,
kiss kiss, lust lust.
I slip my tongue
over the old cavity
and bite down hard
to the taste of my blood.

Posted by Chris at 03:48 AM | Comments (0)

The Fix

The world as perceived through a nose with no membranes:
“It’s like peering through a magnifying glass
at fly shit on the wall and that’s me,” she says.
I will remember her smile. I will, but it stretches
into teeth with blank eyes, she’s there, then not there.

“You don’t know how it is!” she cries, snuffling loudly,
Kleenix careful for bleeds. “I just go to watch, I just
go to watch them do it! For an hour it stops the pain
and even if it’s only an hour, at least for that hour there is
no pain.”

There is nothing I can do but hold her,
love her, and I do when she says “I can’t
see you anymore. I can’t keep putting you through this.
You have to go.”

And then the pain finds me crying “hold me
just hold me tonight and I’ll never call again
I promise, I’ll let you go, just give me
one more hour?”

Posted by Chris at 03:46 AM | Comments (0)

Freedom

runs down the road
naked fat and buttery
the sun’s golden boy
bouncing and rolling
breaking down fences
and letting white horses run

Posted by Chris at 03:45 AM | Comments (0)

Ice

Swizzle stick stirring,
you make an entrance.
In the corner of my eye
I watch you mingle.
Frozen bubbles
avoid the moment, the locked
expression, the coat hanger
smile! We swirl,
molded at a distance,
only to melt, trickle,
crumble, clink!
And here I stand
unabashed before you.
Your face swims puzzled,
features hesitating,
then rearranging
like cubes in a glass.

Posted by Chris at 03:45 AM | Comments (0)

Caddo Site

They lounge under a blue awning,
enjoying their first fresh air
in four hundred years spent
buried in summer-baked clay
with remnants of their salt camp
above Saline Bayou.

People stare at their naked bones,
noting the parallel arrow tips stuck
into the middle one’s right elbow,
and especially the narrow-necked
polished black pots buried
where their heads had been.

Curious, I push forward,
drawn to photograph
what I had sworn not to publish,
a witness to the dig
helping cover it up.

With ochre-stained feet
the diggers step cleanly
between femurs and ulnas
of the three in one grave.
Someone offers iced tea
with curious speculation—

Was it voodoo or headhunters
or Caddo ancestor worship?
Another laughs, spits,
calls them “The Potheads,”
kicks at bags of dirt,
and shakes his broad belly.

And even as I photographed them,
I could hear the headless bones
asking me to pour back the dirt
from the carefully labeled bags,
to leave their decomposed guts
whole and wrapped in their crumbling ribs.

Posted by Chris at 03:40 AM | Comments (0)

New Branch

for my grandfather, Carl Boese, 1911-1987

Once I went for a walk up my tree
barefoot and almost
killed my toes.

Once I bit into a black walnut,
a green one, to see if it tasted
sharp as its pine-orange smell.

Once I swung from a limb on that tree
(to give my feet a rest) when I thought
I saw my grandpa hunkered down
on a branch just up from mine.

He was breaking small sticks
and rubbing the bark, casually balanced
on the balls of his feet.
He didn’t even see me.

I watched him fuss over his work,
pinching up bark crumbs
and arranging them so,
as if there were something
in that branch of the tree.

Offhand he glanced over and nodded,
said “There, it’ll be ready soon.”

But then my hand slipped,
shook bark in my eyes.
When they watered clear
he was gone.

Posted by Chris at 03:39 AM | Comments (0)

Inverse

I am the great Pooh-Rah,
queen of my universe,
doggie of my doggie,
biter of my fleas.
I patrol the sunspots
sliding over hardwood,
idle in each on my back,
arch, twist and scratch,
bare my teeth, grinning to cast
blessings and benevolence
on all I can see
upside down.

A five-year-old,
sits upside down, inverted
in a round vinyl chair.
She dangles her head
and sings to a phonograph,
knocks a lamp
with her feet and
sends my ball rolling
across our uneven ceiling
of rubber plants, chair legs,
and hanging tables.

Posted by Chris at 03:37 AM | Comments (0)

Only the Cat Knows

Saturday morning sloth,
woozy warm skin
and pillow lines on my hands,
I squint at the outline
of cat in the window,
and sleep pulls back my shades.

Covers to my chin, I shiver,
under the blankets hands come alive—
first to get warm and then as a figure
from my evaporated dream
returns to conduct
a small symphony.

And so I play on
to my audience of one.
The cat watches me, yawns,
looks out the window.

Yet when she was younger
she would pedal in place,
leap through the air,
and pounce on that lump
wiggling under the covers,
rabbit-kicking her hind legs
at some hidden mouse
centered on my arching body.

Now from her perch
she sits and blinks—
jaded, spayed,
and indifferent to mice.

Posted by Chris at 03:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The People Who Leave Us

with apologies, M.M.

do not sit abruptly
in trains or planes
to write the Dear Johns
that die in the dust
on our rugs and end tables.

When they go, we trace
their steps, seek a crack
in their resolve: the grand canyon,
a misstep on the threshold,
a faultline,
the softly slammed door.

The people who leave us
lose nothing with a pause
on their way out,
a few steps backward, perhaps,
to suck in familiar air
and give us time.

Posted by Chris at 03:35 AM | Comments (0)

War Mosaic

Pool reporters wear water wings
in the desert. Live coverage is ongoing
but we are cut off from the field.
Today's lesson in redundancy:
How many retired generals can don
cheerleader's skirts and dance
on the head of a pin?

Answer:
To give you that information
at this time would endanger
the security of our troops.

Posted by Chris at 03:34 AM | Comments (0)

Edna Waking

Stretches and yawns,
her hand nudged
by the hot dry nose of Jack,
the three-legged dog,
wanting out.

Gingerly climbs from her nest
sunk in the high-edged
creaking twin bed.
Pulling up she grabs
the white painted iron posts.

Shrugs her robe stiffly
around the twinge in her shoulder,
trips on the open Bible
dropped on the floor.
With a swipe she knocks it
under the bed.

Her slippers shuffle
down the linoleum hall.
Jack’s nails click ahead.
Living room heater kicks in
cooking stale cat piss
unnoticed on the carpet.

Pearl and Lucy crisscross underfoot,
strays cats named for friends
from distant obituaries.
The hungry animals gather
around dishes and doors.

Bright noontime sun glares
off windblown snow granules.
She stoops for the paper
and follows Jack inside.
The TV flickers on.

Posted by Chris at 03:33 AM | Comments (0)