Monthly Archives: February 2017

Commercial Fisherman

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 facing 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, wrapped around the thing
that makes 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, other parts of him
all chewed up by crabs and sand fleas

Once, Duncan and I were fishing off of Port Hardy
The sea got big and was so seasick I slipped
and got knocked 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, glassy and staring back at me
as I write them, make me sick like that

Carmine

With all her fretwork on display,
fissures of deep-bone joy
sometimes erupt.

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,
pasting jewels
and acquaintances
into her gouged
book of days.

Alt-Oz

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

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.