Monthly Archives: March 2018

Kung Fu Blues Master

An easel begs me
for rain chalk

Scorpions don’t
live here, I say

Should I
bring you inside?

Rain chalk. I asked
for rain chalk, it says

And you should make
your poems less irritable

You don’t like a prophet of birds?
An idiot wind?

Try for more grassfire
less piston and steam

The smell of cooking
in a badly washed pan?

Better

Thanks,
I stole that line

Waitress

Almost out of gas
But I had enough to make it to Lake Charles
Carrying everything I own that could fit in my car
Driving like a tweeker
Even though I wanted to slow down
Finding a rest stop only made things worse
Given that I was nearly as empty as my tank
Hold on a little longer, I thought
Ignore the possibility that she was already gone

Just outside of Slidell, I stopped for coffee
Kindred is kin to me is what Dad used to say
Less than something is better than nothing
My waitress plunked down a menu
Nothing but rain all week, what’re you havin’ honey?

Only what I can’t have, I said
Perhaps you have something that makes you strong
Quick, like a gust of wind on a railroad siding
Reaction time is everything when you are meeting a lover again
Sure as you’re born, and as soon as you know
Timing is everything, she said

Underwater as I am, I don’t know if it would help though
Vines and more vines, all around my life, my brain
Where are you heading, she asked
X-ray me and find out, I smiled
You know, my x-ray is broke, but I think
   you might best turn around, she said with quiet eyes
Zero chance of good weather where you’re goin’

Saving Daylight

Time and space are modes by which
we think, not conditions in which we live
–Albert Einstein

Today, in the speedy parts
of the world, we band together
to save time by rearranging it

Maybe time is an orange
Peel back the moment and there
is a circle of segments inside, each
with the seeds of other times
You plant one and live a different life

Maybe time is an orchestra. A loose
confederation of things that have
willingly assembled to create
something where things appear coherent
and beautiful, but only if you are alert

Maybe time is a circus. The elephants
walk in a circle, tail to trunk. Someone
rides each one giving instructions
and we all experience time together
They spin in place and time goes
backwards

Maybe time is an ambition. We aspire
to live in a way that makes sense to us
so we age, wear funny socks and die in
small rooms with low lighting
But just as easily we could live so that
we make no sense to each other and time
could stand still forever

Thermopolis, Wyoming

The mineral water swimming pool in
Thermopolis, Wyoming has a smooth gravel bottom
My little kid feet were delighted to learn that
The water tastes oily. People are shouting
Women are wearing bathing caps with big flowers
on them and men are in baggy trunks
My brothers and I splash around like new
spring frogs in the slippery gray water

Decades later my wife finds some family
postcards, long forgotten in her fathers
desk after he died. There is one card
from an aunt that is postmarked
Thermopolis, Wyoming 1937

She writes to her fiance. Why haven’t
you come out to join me? They were going
to start a life together, there beneath
the Bighorn range. She talks of the late
spring, the snowdrifts, the new town jail
The slow pace of her life drifts off the
page like mist from a blue Yellowstone
sulfur pool

The postcard was written in pencil
On the front is a drawing of the mineral
water pool. Men in long bathing suits
wearing mustaches. Women in longer bathing
clothes. The roads are ok now. I know they
are slow, darling. It took me three days
to get here from Laramie. Why haven’t you come?

The Thing That Sits in the Corner

Play Me, says the candy apple red 1966 Fender Telecaster
guitar lurking in the corner of my office
I’m better than the red pill or the blue pill and I won’t
make you larger or smaller than you already are, it says
I’m busy, I say. Writing, email, taxes, dinner plans, you know
Hey, why don’t you give us a tune, I say

        Hats cover up what needs covering up
        but belts only hold up what is heading
        for the ground anyway

What the hell is that, I say. Shut up or give us real a tune
The guitar, all country blues snarls, grinning
Like Buddy Guy with soft eyes like Brad Paisley, shrugs
and sings in a country baritone

        I don’t know if it’s better to stand in a line
        than to swing on a rope and let go
        But I do know it’s better to know how to sing
        than to try to keep steam from rising

        Mussel shoals is a place where the diners stay open
        till the sun comes up in the morning
        And everyone knows it’s the best place to go
        If you need a little encouraging

The song makes more sense than I want it to. In fact
it sounds like something I wrote
I lean over and start reading email. Someone has sent me
a link to Rory Gallagher singing his Cradle Rock

        If I was a cradle then you’d let me rock
        If I was a pony then you’d let me trot
        If I was the atom then you’d split me into three
        But when I want to see you, baby
        How come you lock your door on me?

Oh boy. Truth is, the guitar sitting in my office belonged to Rory
It came from his estate. It’s like Rory sent me the link himself

        Hey, man I did send you the video. Listen to it
        It’s just another language. Everything goes
        back to the blues and finding the one
        Finding the one is what all art is about
        You don’t have to be me, or Transtromer
        or Kingfish Ingram or Salvador Dali, you just
        have to do you. Just do you. That is enough

I don’t play much rock, I say. I bought your guitar because
I fell in love with the sound of it. Don’t do me, do you, he says
Finally, I pick up the guitar. The back has belt buckle scratches
and the paint is chipped and everyone who played it in the store
Fell in love with it too. OK, I say, maybe somewhere there is
a pony or an atom or someone who needs to hear my own Cradle Rock–
All my poems that need to find their own place in the world
with or without a fancy guitar backup. I’ve got my own chips
And buckle scratches and my volume control is pretty worn too
But I’m turning it up to eleven now
And I have always wanted to see Mussel Shoals

Maze and Beam

Eight Things About Being Lucky
Like saints in old Prague
feet under the table cloth
dining car sex
Nibbling on the horizon
snapped off clean
weightless and empty as particles
brown as old cream
wrinkly bits in the cuticle salt air
we were never lucky

Six Things About Being Ready
To be entered is a beautiful thing
lunging
rime ice on back teeth
kiln-fired and ready
a beach glass necklace wedding
rolling in the rubbery darkness

Seven Things About Being New
Farm dirt fresh
wanting
gulping in a tender garden
street corner buskers
grace, a one time delicacy
a folding table
loitering by the paper cups

Eight Things About Getting Away Clean
Packets of raw sugar
language of pencil fire
a bulldozer rite
the color of a cataract
an eyes-locked blow job
new ruby outcroppings of Iceland
a blond cello
blue skirt
perishing, unaltered

Five Things About Home Birth
A nipple apparatus
a black horse splashing
a slippery arm
ions drifting through like strange perfume
in an all night diner

Four Things About Bad Timing
Orpheus and Eurydice
floodlit in the glands
smell of an old red sweater
pinball flippers
that never touched

Six Things About the Cost of Winning
Velasquez and Delacroix
Frazier and Ali
crepe paper and relativity tricks
singed cotton
the purest arc light
a chair in a snowdrift

Seven Things About a Birthmark
Lobes and ink and needles
the rigor and rush of melon
borrowed toxin
a yucca plant
heady and overripe
Slivovitz, the plum brandy
Slovenia is bitter almonds
a new birthmark burns us both