Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ode to Bob Dylan

Corrugated like words
in the strangely mounded night,
catching us in your rough headlights,
your scorn like lead bullets,
you bought us all time.

Maybe if I had dengue fever
or was a hardshell unbeliever
I wouldn’t have given you a second thought–
with your hungry gypsy women
and your pointed shoes and your bells,
never pointing where true north is,
I would have let you pass by.

But out here in the desert
where the land is softly folded
your words from your new album suddenly cover the hills
like the illuminated manuscript of some mad saint
giving it a patina more refined
than the afternoon could manage on it’s own.

The Hills of Home

Ninety Four

I am three again
sitting on daddy’s shoulders
wrinkles in the mind

Dog Walk

Corgi dogs walk
the same way I think most days,
all jerky and wiggly
with only an approximate direction,
waggling from one distraction
to the next–
a person,
a car with a person in it,
a person with another person,
a person with a dog,
a dog with a person,
a squirrel with a death wish,
a house with a person in front of it,
–like dropped bread crumbs,
really anything will serve
to lead a Corgi dog,
or a man,
around the ragged block
back to where he started.

–Burl Whitman

Mill Worker

On the business end
of the green chain,
the logs come up reluctantly
out of the river,
slick as snot,
groaning and squealing
like the children
of some giant asswipe demons.

Turn your back on one
and it would like nothing better
than to roll over on you
and put you on
the no breakfast forever list.

I’m off bearing on the main saw.
The sawyer’s name is Jack.
He is in his twenties, skinny,
blond, shirt off, chest and back
covered with sweat and sticky sawdust.

It’s all about rhythm.
Set. Cut. Off bear. Repeat.
Not ten words between us the whole day.

The cutting list is taped
to the saw frame.
Jack crawls around
the oily monster
doing his setup,
making sure the log dogs are tight.

Then he hits the button
and the beast starts to eat and roar.

All of Creation seemed
to roll through the saw that day.

The shadows rolled around us
like we were the pivot point
of the universe,
everything gimbaled
and swinging easy
like it’s supposed to.

The smell of that lumber
will be in my nose the day
I leave this earth.

Jack was killed the next summer–
flipped his truck off a logging road
driving home shit-faced drunk.
Three days before they found him.

He never let me touch his saw, though.
Too dangerous, he said.
You are lucky to be off bearing for me, shit bird, he said.

Getting Hucked

I worked all summer in Idaho
up around Cour d’Alene–
restaurant work,
feeding farmhands
and truckers, mostly.

Everybody was talking about,
crazy about huckleberries.
Huckleberry this, huckleberry that,
huckleberries in everything,
jam, pancakes, syrup, pies,

We had this joke–
walk into work in the morning,
you didn’t have to touch a counter or anything,
and there would be a big
huckleberry streak on your arm.
We called it getting hucked.

The hours were crazy,
seems like all I did was work
and watch the heat lightening
reflecting off the river at night.

I miss it somehow
in this Portland town.

–Burl Whitman

Bowling with Nixon

I always thought it would be fun
to bowl with President Nixon
in the basement of the White House.

You know, spot the old boy
a few frames,
watch that goofy grin
slide sideways
as I hook one into the pocket
on the last frame,
beat him by seven,
or even let him win
if I was feeling generous that day.

Maybe Pat would watch us,
clap, bring us a cold one,
laugh at his jokes.

Me and Tricky Dick–
basement bowling buddies.

I miss Mr. High Waisted Pants
with the pancake TV makeup
that could never cover
his sweaty upper lip,
telling us he wasn’t a crook.

Cheap thug, hack,
back stabbing, race baiting,
Jew hating,
whining narcissist politician,

But ol’ Dicky boy, my friend,
you were a fucking liberal choir boy
compared to the venal mafia dons
who run your party now.

Rest easy, Quaker Dick.
You were the last US President
who spent more on social programs
than on defense.

The “Abraham Lincoln of the American Indian,”
father of the EPA,
the Clean Air Act and Earth Day.

Lower your backswing
and keep your hand and wrist
at nine o’clock, old timer.
The Dude would be proud.

–Burl Whitman