Poetry

Work to Do

By Rod Miller

A cold-jawed horse, and Wheaties.
I’m ready to do a man’s work.
When the sun comes up, I’ll start.
Dad says I’m ready.

I’m ready to do a man’s work.
By myself, for the first time.
Dad says I’m ready.
What if I get bucked off? I’m cold and sleepy.

By myself, for the first time.
No help, no help, no help.
What if I get bucked off?
What if all these cows explode?

No help, no help, no help.
But I’m big now. I’m big.
What if these cows explode?
What if they stampede, like in the movies?

But I’m big now. I’m big.
Dad says, “Good luck, Rod. Don’t fuck up.”
What if these cows stampede, like in the movies?
It would be wrong to cry now. I have work to do.
Dad says, “Good luck, Rod. Don’t fuck up.”
When the sun comes up, I’ll start.
It would be wrong to cry now. I have work to do.
A cold-jawed horse, and Wheaties.

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Last Tuesday

By Jason Deiss

The manager needs an afternoon off
in the foodservice industry,
when the college town turnover means nobody’s there
and the customers demand attention.

In the foodservice industry’s
rancid, fryer oil air,
the customers demand attention
over half burned pots.

The rancid, fryer oil air
drips form the ceiling vents
onto the half burned pots
and wilted, splintered fingers.

The ceiling vents drip
on the smoke black grill
as wilted splintered fingers
delve the sinks.

On the smoke black grill,
it’s a misuse of time
to delve the sinks
when the register’s broken.

It’s all a misuse of time,
when the college town turnover means nobody’s there,
the register’s broken,
and the manager needs an afternoon off.

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Mending

By Lori Howe

My grandfather mended fence
in the cold light of Januaries.

He mended with other closed-faced men
in heavy jackets
and leather gloves stiff with frost.
Amongst them, gestures,
few words,
the upward thrust of a chin,
a footward nod…
enough language
for the task.

My mother’s grandfather mended net
in the cold rain of mornings by the sea.

He mended with other closed-faced men
in rubber boots
and oilskin jackets
as the sky slicked down their necks
and across chests and backs
strong from pulling nets
and mending them.

They mended fence and net with your grandfather
and your mother’s grandfather
without speaking
and knew each other’s minds
through the movement of their hands.

I would mend net and fence with you
on the plains or on wet rocks by the sea,
but our hands are empty now—

you cannot know my mind

by watching me,

you cannot know me by the sharpness

of my blade or needle,

you cannot tell my heart

by the clean motion of my knots.

Mend with me,
out in that space
beyond fences.
We need no nets
to tie knots
that will hold.

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August 7, 2002

By George Lucy

I sit on a slick man-made rock,
covered in malodourous sweat,
hoping for rain, to clean the layer of filth covering me.

Able to hear waves near in the distance,
the roars of thunder close enough to touch,
offering the smell of hot tires, not the promise of relief.

Staged on the tarmac suffering,
“Dear Leader” Jong-il issues a threat,
a death sentence rendered only by US, upon the Land of the Rising Sun.

I gather up the bearing to not vomit,
but on the surface poise is all that shows,
my mind races, attempting to fathom the events that are unfolding.

As the wind picks up,
it carries a song of cheers,
dismissed from 48 hours of fear, I find myself wanting…

a shower.

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Joy

By C. F. Kelly

I will watch
the snowflakes fall softly
the waves wash the sand
the clouds form menageries
the fire’s flames dance
the women’s hips sway
and know
that I am alive

I will experience
cool, clean mountain air
earth, solid beneath my feet
the savory scent of forest pines
the beating wings of the raven
bitter, sour, sweet, and salt
and know
that I am alive

and filled with the joy of living.

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My Icarus

By David Romtvedt

It was on a Thursday when a young man
dropped from the sky into my back yard.
I know it was Thursday because that’s when
I do the gardening which between mowing,
trimming, mulching, weeding, and watering
takes all day. The mulch is my favorite part–
spreading the cut grass around the plants
to keep the ground cool in the desert heat.

The young man hit one of the railroad ties
I’d used to make raised beds for vegetables
and broke his elbow—the bend of his wing—
or that’s what I thought but when I looked
closer I saw goose feathers glued carefully
to a hand-carved wooden armature attached
with leather belts to his shoulders and chest.

So this is Icarus. How could he be here
so far from the Pacific and farther still
from the Aegean? When he fell, his father
came swooping down to find a sheen
of white feathers on the shining black sea.

He cried out and cursed himself
for inventing human flight.
He’d given his son the same warning
my father gave me—“Don’t fly too close
to the sun for the heat will melt the wax,
the feathers will fall off and you will fall.”
I’ve fallen more times than I can count
but keep trying to fly, feeling it is my duty
to get as close to the sun as possible.
Like other young men, I ignored
my father’s warnings and now
that he’s dead I can’t apologize.

I lifted the youth from the railroad tie
and saw that when he hit the tomatoes,
they cushioned his fall and he was smeared
not with blood but with the crushed fruit–
a mixture of too many Hollywood movies
and my aging eyes which I hate to admit
don’t work as well as they once did.

I helped him to a lawn chair, gave him a beer
with lime juice, and went back to mowing.
I use an electric mower and the blue cord
trails behind, the jerky electrons turning
the blade to chew up the grass.

He coughed and set the beer aside.
Then he stood and came toward me,
pointing at the mower and waving his arms,
his cough so violent that I worried
he might hurt himself. When I touched him,
he shook off my hand and began pushing
the mower—faster and faster until his feet
barely touched the ground.

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Returning Home in Winter

By David Romtvedt

I open the door as my wife steps
from the bath into the cold air,
goose bumps on her skin.
She wraps a towel around herself,
sees me watching, and unwraps it.
When she smiles, her breath rises.

The shadow of the bamboo sweeps
across the steps without stirring
the dusting of snow and we leave
no tracks as we climb the stairs
and fall into bed. The blackbird too
has a shadow. It crosses the sky
on winter afternoons, the sharp light
in the icicles hanging from the eaves.

In the lower corner of the old Chinese paintings,
a hermit or wandering monk sits at the base
of a mountain, his long hair dirty and his clothes torn.
Before him, the leafless branches of the trees wave.

Such a painting hangs near the stove
where my wife, now dressed,
sits brushing her hair.
I add wood to the fire.

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In A Parallel Universe

By Cynthia Atkins

There are two little girls
in four pig-tails left at the pit-stop

of an abandoned gas-station,
waiting for the high school band

in Kansas of Kuwait—Our Kismet
is passing through a loud sound barrier,

non-chalant as a cereal box in
a church fire, or is it the coldest porridge

left by Goldilocks, on a table where pages
blew out the window, while a train passed through

the Encyclopedia Britannica, volumes A-Z.
Steam whistles, and a red velvet cab car reveals

the desires of a bank teller, or a bald widower,
pronouncing, “There’s no draft to this war!” The band

can go back to football—which is how we pulled
elegy from the Eagle’s beak, or was it effigy?

On the other side of the mirror, we will be stalked
by the lies we told. In a field of pumpkins and urns

a child is weeping with the cows, they stare at us
astute as busboys clearing plates and bowls. Our voices

went home without the key-note speaker, the clouds are
held up by tooth picks—A china shop, we don’t dare enter.

Categories: Issue 5, Poetry | 7 Comments

Wealth Management

By Cynthia Atkins

Walking in circles, we take the long-view.
Eccentric, forgetting the hyped-up
Alimony of an ersatz desire.  Bad wires make good lovers!
Long and short of it, we rolled out the cake.
Time clocks are the mortal enemy of lakes.  Sex is talk cheap.
Hungry for a frugal memory—someone urging a spoon of spinach.

Magic enhancements (not cash) are stashed under the mattress.
Art poor, we’re like the pagan church mouse’s empty pockets.
Notorious is the tortoise, evicted from his house after fast living.
As the soup gets cold, as stones get thrown. 
Gambled away our yin and yang—Blame the boomers,
Envious of Persian rugs.  Epithets stop us in our tracks.
Moreover, we’ll rent-a-vision from the corner store.
Entrenched in daily nettles, death scared us into breath.
Net worth is measured in childhood flaws and beach sand.
Table this equation: know when to throw good money after bad.

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Maze

By Richard Luftig

I want us to get lost
in this corn, get stuck
in dead center, meander
so far that the cars
from the county road
sound like pings in a cave.

get in over our heads,
drop out of sight,
disappear in this maize,
delight in amazement
at our plight,
light and luck.

here in our hearth
of tassels and whispers,
is where I wish to spread
out my arms, then hold
you tight to my chest
spend what’s left

of this night, this life,
these breaths, waiting to rise
again like some hidden
Lazarus to the surface
until night with each stem
and stalk yields its secret surprise.

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