We stood in a circle of make-believe stones, waiting for the man we built from mud and twigs to rise. He’d turn us into zombies, replace tooth fairies with shrunken heads. We’d find fingers in gumbo soup. We called it a day. We found the man of mud and twigs in our basements, our closets, in pictures from geography textbooks–he walked right out of the page and shrunk himself to fit our idea of him as portable and lonely. One by one, our teachers disappeared. Our dreams turned to rancid butter. We hunted the darkness in packs of scavenger sevens. Telephone wires spilled dead voices. We whispered the names of ghost towns to our sickly grandmothers. They crossed themselves and died. When the great blizzard finally hit, we locked ourselves in our rooms. We grew bigger than our own shadows.
He said the bad tooth
was so deep he needed night goggles.
After the extraction,
I could not be un-numbed.
Perhaps I’m nothing but
a calcified hallucination
under too much anesthesia.
The day never woke from itself.
Under a mask of skin,
I dreamt of a flashlight
without a face,
a voice begging for jawbreakers,
and a new father
with a gaggle of soft fingers.
during the ragtime of the prairie you had
a dance band in the family to counter
the bleating neighing and lowing of the yard
with a piano a fiddle a guitar
and a drum
your days not any one of mine
and I am not hearing you or sitting in
but I have crestfallen in the hayrick too
next to the wheat fields you knew and worked until
three of you surviving the music
and drying on beyond my childhood might not
have objected to the clarinet I tried
our only falling out the matter of
so I fellow you to honor all
you sheaved by note or by heart and the poster
will make you every one of me that I
tack up on the wall in my raggeder time
A crow on the streetlight
tilts its confused head.
How do you answer it?
We must practice darkness for parity.
Blacken those red blotches we see
even after the closure of our eyelids.
You can hear the bird’s explanation on this.
It contains its days into small garbage bags,
Inside the tunnel of brown haze,
the road is road uncomfortable,
as most worth traveling are.
Through open windows
magnificent scenes fill
this resilient old Jeep.
Music heightens the air,
from the desert breeze.
Beauty pulls rain.
I sometimes miss the taste
of sweet showers
or bitter tears.
The country is parched.
Maybe the earth needs a good cry.
can be unearthed here,
like it could be in rapture.
The land is home.
I have been released
with the knowledge
that I must return.
But from my prison
of block buildings
and hollow agendas,
I can see
of never-ending prairie
ruled by mountains,
and take comfort
that I can escape
to this abandoned heaven.
He’s in the cellar, his make-shift workshop,
sawing, hammering, gluing, soldering,
under a dingy light.
His wife, long given up on his ever coming to bed,
is fast asleep.
The radio’s on to keep him company,
even though the tuner’s broken and the
one station it gets is static more than talk show.
But it’s noise and that’s what matters.
And it doesn’t ask him what he’s doing down there.
His fingers roam the bench vise.
His hands dig into a box of nails and screws.
And there’s that sawhorse that he built himself.
Everything that feels good to the touch is in this basement.
His latest work is taking shape.
It’s a record cabinet
though he doesn’t listen to music.
Last time it was a bookcase by a man
who’s never read a book.
So what’s next?
Flying between amethyst eyes
and locks of cloudy zinc,
I propel my winged soul
down the ruddy highway.
Evening changes the color of her
inviting eyes; I watch
her lay down to black,
a pupil deeper than time,
than genesis or dust.
What angel in his arabesque breastplate
can my consonant-heavy,
English words duly invoke?
I’ll praise whichever silver star
it is who’ll pierce the carapace of
my articulated, squirming soul.
I invite the Clovis point
of high Orion’s bow and arrow.
Let wonder connect the crystals
and the man of black organic soil
who has slept millennia
beneath labyrinthine Knossos
melt away in the pine-laced rain.
As the stone of dead stars
and the corroded clay of decaying life
slips away into the crevices of the saline sea,
and settles, sleepily, in the basin of heaven’s mirror,
let me look upon the natural angel held responsible
for this liberation–
for this liberation from misunderstanding–
for this promise of dissolution.
Let me thank him.
If Alps and Andes wash away,
and the ape is such a little thing…
Riding on the tailgate I watch the world leave
My dusted boots dangling
Parting grasses spring, catapulting
grasshoppers to the next season.
A trickle of sweat runs down my neck
as I lick my parched lips, thirsting, itching
to pick a handful of wildflowers.
The fields are dappled with yellow bursts,
I feel their brown eyes, searching
the sky for answers.
The owl watches patiently.
Even now on this rural highway
my arm shoots out
across the passenger seat
whenever I brake for deer.
Out on Riverview on the dark
side of violet, no streetlights
for miles, life can change in a flash.
Watching for night creatures
I round a curve, and a long procession
of does and young bucks
is stopping on the road. I slam my brakes
and reach across but you, of course,
aren’t there. I see the deer,
the embers of their eyes sizing up
the circumstance, and after a breath,
crossing the stage of my beams
off right. I wait,
knowing how animals can straggle
and then rush heedlessly onto the road,
or change their minds and run back.
Sitting in the darkness, seeing only
a small-lit world, I sense it’s okay to proceed.
No way to know for sure. I drag up some
primal faith, keep going, cautiously
believing as the velvet deer
that I’ll make my way home.
I’ve seen in daylight how they flow
and then some leap the fence,
front legs folded, or some dive
between the wires. The last and smallest
can pace along the fence line,
young and undecided, then leap and land
belly on the top barbed wire,
rock for two
seconds, and then, by sheer energy
or prayer, thrust himself over,
his mother trembling,
powerless except to care.
A great blue heron
landed near the cattails
at the edge of the pond.
It sat tall,
still as a chalice,
only twice in several minutes
turning its dark-plumed head.
But half a dozen blackbirds
jabbing towards it,
wishing it ill.
Slowly, it swooped its luxurious wings
drew in its resplendent head
trailed back its streamer-ribbon legs
rose and drifted off beyond the hill.