I have taken every third word
I heard today, gathered them up and dumped them in a pile.
Some I jammed in a pill bottle with other acid reminders-
a random chemical family. Maybe they will work things out.
Some I hung in a tree like a wishbone.
Pull one end to see if you are lucky or not.
Some I laid out like plastic trash above the tide line,
in between the clumps of seaweed.
Some I scratched on the side of the doorless outhouse
we set up to face the ocean to watch for returning boats.
Some went for new, inventive labels on the grape wine
we made when it was too rough to fish.
The rest is personal packing
to keep my insides from falling out,
wrapping them around the thing that made no sense–
Duncan’s body, or what was left of it, washed up in a tide pool.
The top all gone, just the legs up to the backbone.
He still had his white socks on. No boots though.
A freak sea, a big wave over the false bar
and the channel inshore of it, quick sandy on the inside.
His boat probably swamped coming in over the bar
and he fell in, got dragged under, numbed by the cold
and had no time to kick his boots off.
His Dad walked the shore everyday until he found him.
Some in the tide pool and farther on
some other parts of him, the head and one shoulder,
all chewed up by crabs and sand fleas.
Once, Duncan and I were fishing off of Port Hardy.
The sea got big and I got so seasick I passed out.
It was all Duncan could do to handle the boat.
I woke up with one eye swollen shut
and vomit and blood and fish scales everywhere.
These words, blank-eyed and staring back at me as I write them,
make me sick like that.
With all her fretwork on display,
fissures of deep-bone joy
Horses, a corral,
blemished but un-perishing,
coral joy and drowsing
by travertine pools, the ceramic
peach bones of Calypso.
A chambered nautilus,
she chases caravans
over the honest hills,
into her gouged
book of days.
Posted in poetry
In Alt-Oz, the Tin Man gives Dorothy the stink eye.
The Scarecrow has no desire to hop down
from his perch and follow her on the road
to the Emerald city and an uncertain destiny.
Things are okay in the forest.
Witches and flying monkeys
will only bother you if you stir things up.
Dorothy, without companions,
is forced into selling real estate
in the poorer neighborhoods on
the north end of Oz.
She dyes the ruby slippers black
to attract less attention
and settles down with one
of the taller munchkins.
She never goes home.
Except at night in her dreams,
when she rides the hurricane
back to Kansas, looks around,
and is stuck in that moment,
the moment of indecision
–go or stay–
for the rest of her life.
She wakes each morning,
puts out the cat, makes coffee
and watches the flying monkeys heading south,
on their way to disembowel
a few unlucky munchkins.
Troublemakers, no doubt.
When words lose their meaning
I listen for the sounds they make.
Some are like dirty water swirling in a can.
Some are like deflating a truck tire.
Some are like when a child dumps
her blocks on a tile floor.
When words become their opposites
their dignity is not diminished.
When the journalists who covered the protests
against the North Dakota oil pipeline
were arrested and charged with rioting,
their words sounded like hammers
annealing hot iron.
The words of the US president,
when he said he wanted
to restart construction on the pipeline,
using a company he owned part of,
sounded like cheap pants ripping
when someone has grown fat
stealing bread money
from his grandmother,
the one with tired eyes
who remembers what she paid
for every piece of clothing
she ever bought.
Posted in poetry