The Tools

at this point the camera is for preparation and research,
harvesting indications and hints for when the real
work begins, the spiritual creation before the cast dries
allowing changes, integral layers of the kinds of besmirch
one should expect from centuries waiting for the heel
against our soft pile, carpeting streets with chips, fries
and thumbtacks, the kind you hammer in, the kind birds
use for eating and building nests, their bowls for eggs
and hatching young wet wings of open mouths always
spreading to welcome seed, a frequent parental purge
of the morning’s worm and fur of meatless spider legs,
the soups and songs that weave minutes into days
in tree after swaying tree, home to all who can abide
a neighborly threat and one’s accidental purpose
shared among hosts and the hosted in a natural chaos

Garden Chorus

Daily, when my wife waters our drying flora
Morning and evening during summer months,
Her mood blooms atop weeklong seed grass,
Our sun-baked garden speaks to her, more a
Maiden chorus greeting their sister at once,
Seeds fallen in turns, gathered and nurtured
Since wind shapes reeds into narrow rows,
A random symmetry, pleasing to the naked
Eye, relaxed yet measurable, raw untutored
Gratitude absorbed into hollowed veins so as
To fall like leaves every year blown and raked
Again and repeated so many times a pattern
Immerges with careful strokes, a hurried brush
Against earthen tones, the lively palette turns
Into a steering wheel like the rings of Saturn
Became the millstone, formerly used to crush
The long grain sustenance a deity ever yearns
His creations partake, to share equal measures
According to seasons of plenty and not despair
One’s self of silently giving without the beggar
Begging, without liquefying worldly treasures
At auction advertised as sampling the local fare,
An unwary stranger opens your pickled fig jar
Before coins arrange into a scrum of flat layers,
Circles with heads and tails that celebrate your
Modest success in parting with fruit you know
Our grandchildren remembered in their prayers
At night before bedtime stories darkened pure
Hearts with heroes whose horses made of snow
And fresh loyalty born of breeding in long rains,
Breaking sweats, records, skin, bones on windy
Roads, twisting and blowing rusted clotheslines
Sprung tightly around the antique weathervanes
Every mile or so another neighbor deeper in the
Throws of their harvest, fruits of St. Valentines
Burden the upper shelves of basement pantries,
Each canned jar a rural comfort beacon, sealed
Lids polished, golden beaming fresh preserves
Through decades that tarnish careful gallantries
With cloudless memories of watering revealed
Savored drops of rain such gardening deserves.


Just parked in the driveway as usual
On inertia now, noticing springs uncoiling
Like night crawlers in our rain of waited
Out lawn-watering curfews, casual
Conversations on everything from petroleum
Products to fabricated spreadsheets shredded
Into pleasant rats nests for the time being,
If you don’t mind, until the pressure of scrotum
Returns to our mutual days of balancing
The yearn with planting seed in years of drought.
Not that anyone thinks it would matter
Even if they knew what you were doing
In your head, going through grids like mail slots
Behind the desk at a hotel lobby.
Just checking things out, sorting through
Bundles of joy before they turn against you
Like the wind against the tide going in and out
So many times, over and over, screaming
Toward rocks and caves hidden to all
But the native elders and their wives.

Shuttle Debris

Such a beast as these jagged shards stacked amid flighty
Scientific questions, sponge bathed lifeless limbs, stretcher,
Armed military parade, wide load National Guard solemn
Caravan toward hanger of reassembly, gathered in mighty
Clipboard clutched white lab coat face-masked lecturer
Cantering the melancholy catalog into microphone column,
Filling our grid of numbers like garden rows in entropy,
A handsome multi-layer sieve tucked away in particles
And pieces, having gone the way of our dust, from cosmos
To cosmos, whatever that means, rearticulate model in 3-D
Except for all the bits hoarded away in newspaper articles,
Old ladies’ pastures and wooded acreage where we almost
Gave up looking for cow pie mushrooms of hallucinogenic
Quality just a little later in the year, oh, so long ago in VW
Bug, arm stretched out a mile or two (it didn’t matter after
The first mile, anyway) when the silly fungi halls of scenic
Destiny turned the telescope so I didn’t want to trouble you
With how far down was the floor, anyway, beam and rafter
Heights were my perceptions on the way to the pillow talk,
The talking pillow I had farted into earlier that day, to spite
And punish the fool who would later lay his head deeply
Into the shaped foam edge lined along the harvest’s stalk
Having yielded this baggage a place in the pages of night
Readings, not wondering about the toxic nature so steeply
Hung away, clarified and cautioned to all, the shredded bits
As well as parts and passions could well contain the cause
Behind the ripping apart of lives, poisons remaining intact
When as a sum flowed a thread which our belonging knits
A pattern unraveled, discernable as a lens through gauze,
We take our softly focused problems back to Ma and Pa as
If there was anything they wanted for us to do other than to
Grow up once and for all, to not be the children born
To them in the awkward times of least expecting, malaise
And joy, all circuits are busy, traffic jams while rendezvous
Are orders of the decade, as we carry toxic, shreds of torn
Feelings toward each other, scattered across fields for days

Down Hill

On the hillside our mothers stood in a chorus line, toes
Pointed nakedly through sandals. Confused border collies
Taking orders from instinct alone, fulfillment frowned
Upon in one’s merely doing what feels what one knows
(Quite correctly, by the way) is the right thing to do. All
Through one’s life, feeling the tug of generations: fathers,
Sons following steps so many years up that same slippery,
Humming similar melodies with slight variations to fall
Freshly on the next, each man changing lines as druthers
Dictate. So, yet again we come to doing simply on the feel
Because the feel is all we have, the carefully measured calls
Toward a cavern somewhere deep inside where fires stoked
In an evening’s revelry prepare us for the morning’s ordeal
Of leaving deserved passions simmering. A motorcar stalls
Again on the highway. Wet, rhythmic white noise chokes
Up the memory of our sleeping warmth, two legs coming
Together into hips so wide the cradle of life fits as nicely
As tasteful new appointments in an empty room, furnished
For a spread in a glossy magazine, opening to the foaming
Center, stitched with steel, folding out again for a thricely
Paneled ceiling. This is as high as you go, the burnished
Clay bust says, speaking to the few, the hapless, the grave
Implications of his word slide unchecked, unsung, unheard
Amidst the masses who might as well have been watching
Reruns, as they probably were, devotedly, religiously, save
All but the few, again, to whom we’ve alluded as absurd
To the world, their shoes, or their lack thereof, patching
Cables into little holes through which the buried clams
Breathe shallowly, deeply mired of their choosing, calmed
Like our babies as a layer of tide nudges, nudges, nudges
The moon from a horizon, rising as the sea urgently blames
Like an unread book fondled in overcrowded trains, palmed
Tokens scattering against polished ground like old grudges
Taken up into heaven with the best of them, all the prophets
We’d never heard of, calling names of worthy successors
Who only angels know, doves issuing from their mouths
Fine wisps of feathery blankets plucked from breasts coat
Our hill bringing quiet to all, blankets of peace, falling.

Incapable Tongue

Java tides erode smiles, warming tongues that gracefully move
From subject to object, rich bitter concentrated dark language,
The kind that burns as it comes and goes, in and out your throat.
That acid, some sort of tannin, citrus hinted, a day off vinegar
If somebody doesn’t check the temperature before the damage
Sets in. The edge of stone tumbles through your nostrils, you note
The involuntary exhale as part of the story, the marvelous command
This half-ounce wields over you during, fulfilling, the moment
For which it was created, when taster and tasted merge. Active
Consumes passive. Passive overwhelms active in the pleasure,
No, not the pleasure, the complexity, the gathering of ancient
History into a brief present, the memory rehearsed as you relive
The subtleties of generations gathered along the yellowed denture,
Pooling at the gate of duct and vein, the wet blue underside of glisten
And gland. You want to spit. But you refrain. That’s part of the ride.
It wants you to do what it wants you to do, not what you want to do.
This more complicated than you had ever imagined. Clenched fist in
Your face, the back of your hand funnels your breath along side
Lips and into lungs, one of each, in the same symmetry of
A squeaking door opening and closing, its trio of hinges
singing to and fro, each its own beginning, middle and end.