Friday, April 29, 2016


When punctured by a fingernail,
a touch-me-not
bursts open, spewing out a tiny seed
whose fibrous filament
circles round and round
arcing back on itself,
holding itself in tension like a spring.
Though tiny, insignificant, they come back
and I have found them
every fall of my life
and picked the frail, fibrous shell
and spilled out the seed,
surprising the wind and my heart,
which flutter in bidding it off.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Spell

A grown man would dream
on that restless blouse
and her eyes serenely drawn
for more than a reply.
But really, it was the mad, pale skin.

Oh not empty, but bursting full, the girl'd
come and go, sometimes go,
then come back again.

In Reno her blood approved
of a guitarist acquainted with the blues.
She allowed him soothing,
and beauty's milk flowed
into the hither regions,
and he the graceful touch of confident fame

Oh, how did it go?
Beauty collects memories of tempestuous times:
she met again a certain saxophonist
back in Memphis
whom she'd known
of a school girl's nights.

Then coming home
from a long hitch on the road,
it was she her husband accused.
Swollen with luck,
his blue guitar discreetly blessed,
how could he test her,
the receiver of her surrender?

That broke the spell.
Carefree, she abandoned him,
traveled to Italy
studied art and human sexuality.

She still rides horses,
married again,
her pictures make money,
she vows to live an eccentric southern lady.

But when she's alone,
thoughts of a boy in rags,
whose splendor was in his eyes,
come back,
and her heart's quick turn
rustles like leaves of an August night.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

God Help Us

Now comes inside the house the chaos outside.
Once a back door opened into nature.
I pray to escape this lonely place.
But how can God help me?
Good luck offering forgiveness to stone!
Jesus says, forgive them. Look where that got Him.
That's His world. No less evil now than
when He had to redeem it.
Tanks crawl rattling through mankind's first nest.
Deserted stone & sand on TV.
We rape the home towns of ancients and we rape nature.
Look, we are into it!
The old empire was called peace compared to this.
Watch them on TV break the ancient scrolls!
Faceless men swing sledgehammers, crowbars;
in a frenzy bust them to pieces!
If there would be God, how can He permit it?
His creation acting so badly?
These barbarians break into the ancient tombs.
Heroes of the dead legends awake!
Battle lines flutter along the horizon at sunset.
The attack comes fiercely from the night.
Jet fighters like lit candles replace ancient chariots.
The warriors shatter the darkness.
How has man renounced his instinct for order & synthesis?
Whence comes fanaticism?
In my hands the scrolls of Jesus keep.
Are we now too free? Not free enough.
How does economics instruct everyman to rape?
Everyman has become disharmony.
The winds blow. Blow winds blow! Nature sighs!
Faith in God won't tell you why.
Everyman shouts through the jargon & pot smoke.
He groans and cynical words come out.
Avoid rational thought. Truth is inexplicable.
Stubborn virtue and character makes a man poor.
Heedless money tattoos rich, poor, honest, dishonest.
Money has broken the covenant of law with truth.
Only who money raises can do what money says.
Money instructs what they call truth.
Marriage once transparent is fouled and dark.
Nobody wants it. Who wants a tissue of lies?
Step outside into nature's gaudy tatters.
(You can smell, taste the air's rampant impurity.)
Nature is sneaking away, dry and sere.
Watch her sneak away.
Nature drenches us from mysterious extremes.
What can you do about ocean currents?
Once understanding dawn and dusk was enough.
You could go far understanding dawn and dusk.
At dawn you knew what to do.
At dusk you knew what to do.
I have quit wondering. It is too complicated.
I have quit dreaming. It is too complicated.
There is no escape. There's no back door.
You cannot live without faith!
Will God help us? Or let us go.
He has still got a lot tied up in it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Chores went along peacefully. As he milked he examined the does' feet. Michelle insisted on keeping up with that herself. Nothing would ruin a goat faster than out of shape feet. She scheduled the worming, and whenever anybody seemed down and out, she was zealous about divining why. This went as much for the barn critters as the other stranger two-leg critters. Her zealousness at times, Jimmy thought, approached nagging.
    Jimmy didn't know the names of most of the barn critters. Every doe kid more than three days old had been solemnly named. They could not keep most buck kids so Michelle did not name them. She valiantly attempted to sell whichever buck kids were offspring of her finished champions. A dairy goat kid who happened to be a boy was lucky to see six months of life. The does usually hung around unless they had a basic incorrectness, a third teat for instance, which happened occasionally, that doomed them to meat. Tight breeding for favorable characteristics produced weirdnesses, too. Most years Jimmy drove the rejects to the flatlands for the Easter Market, an unpleasant detail. Michelle worked the Easter Market like a scientist, and sometimes Jimmy, the disgusting despot, came home with a thousand dollars or more. A dreary story. When he stopped to fill up, the children, hearing the kids bleat and fuss, gathered around to look through the windows of the truck cap at the cute babies hopping around. Inevitably, one would ask, “Where are they going?” One time he was in a bad mood. He grumbled the truth, one of the children started to cry, and Jimmy had roasted himself for it ever since, it was such a stupid, unnecessary thing to say.
    Animals came and went, that was farming, and for Jimmy sticking a body with a name made the departure worse. When he noticed they had survived the cut and were still hopping around the barn into the next year, he eventually learned the name. But that was much later in the process. He'd hang around the barn, doing something or maybe doing nothing, leaning on the fence, and not knowing the name yet, as many times as Michelle had told him, he'd explain to her, “The white face one.”
    “The white face one with the little brown spot?”  He'd point to the top of his head.
    “That's Mercy.”
    “She is down a lot.”
    Shortly thereafter loose paper would flutter, dishes rattle, door open and shut, as she went outside to check on his observation.
    Jimmy was an innocent lost in the dark woods of farming. Take Ray Beliveau, up toward Bethel, the organic dairy farmer. He hadn't taken a vacation of any kind in twenty years. “Can't,” he said. “Can't explain to anybody how I do things.” Beliveau knew every imaginable detail about his farm. Jimmy had gone up to buy calves from him. The calves were inevitably big and growthy and active. The farmhouse, though elderly as far as houses go, was a monument to order and light. Jimmy could run into him on Sunday afternoon. He'd be fussing in the barn, chores long done, listening for cranky vibes. While Beliveau remembered every blade of grass he had ever baled, Jimmy scratched his head.
    He knew Michelle's friend, Deanna Parker, would drop by to check on the girls and field observations. But everybody seemed happy, now that he was showing up on time.
    Jimmy had spent so much of his life working strange hours that he ceased feeling discomforted. Though tired, that perked up his senses. But sometimes he'd arrive home from work after a long shift, a fight with somebody or somebody was having a hard time, and he'd swear he could drop on the ground dead asleep. And then he went into the barn where darkness oozed off his heart, taking with it nameless stresses. Animal voices, animal faces came to the fence, expecting him to jump through hoops. Michelle, a rugged force of nature, dark eyes wide spaced, came from the house, doors slamming behind her, with the stainless steel buckets. “Hi, Pop. Good night?” “All right.” She approached to be kissed and hugged. No sweet upward glances from her; she was tall for a girl; she was direct no fooling. He always kissed her on the lips, no trouble creating the necessary enthusiasm. They did without verbiage. This was their ritual. Her people were big, and they kept themselves in good shape. Estelle, though looking skinny and smallish from a distance, was not when you got close to her. Ted, Michelle's older brother, and Jerry, whom everybody called Bones, her baby brother, were both sturdy. Relatives were big. Michelle did the milking. She insisted on a room divided from the barn space to milk in. Numerous hoops to jump through in order to sell the milk, complicated mysteries to Jimmy. She sold milk, she made cheese, butter, and kept over enough for cows and pigs, or any bottle babies that happened to show up for cheap money, which when weaned she could sell at a profit. Greetings past, they both went into the barn and he switched on the milking machine, for they used to have thirty goats in milk, and once he set to work, the energy came from a strange place—an oddball uplifting whose source he could not analyze. Jimmy had always had animals, cats and dogs and tamed squirrels, when he was a kid in the park before the fire. His grandfather Shem Freeman, whose farm Jimmy had lived on for two years, raised crops and sold hay. He kept beefs to clean up the fields. Jimmy had gotten along with his Grandfather and Grandmother, but when he left the farm, he could not remember feeling anything. He said good-by, and then he went away. But something must have gotten under his skin. Look where he was now!  Michelle would shout to start sending them in.
    Now there were only ten in milk and no Michelle. Easy to milk ten by hand, no milking machine made a racket. Milking done, the girls cleared out of the barn in a herd and made a pretty picture browsing in the dry, green grass of late summer. The barn was eerie quiet. He cleaned pens for awhile. Yellow sunlight fell across the pens in broad, dusty swaths. “Why is it I feel so stupid?” Jimmy thought. “This world is such a mystery. I had better call Dawn because if I get overwhelmed in all this mystery, I'll jump off a cliff.” There was a cliff at the top of the Pinnacle two or three miles up the logging road behind the house. Once he had gotten mad at Michelle for some reason, he couldn't remember what, and he had gone for a walk. He climbed the Pinnacle and stood on the edge. That was awhile ago, but he thought he remembered it was steep enough. He sighed. There was a funny end for a philosopher!  He tried to think of a philosopher who had jumped off a cliff. There must be one. The number of suicidal creative writers were legion. Philosophers tended to mold. Karl Marx developed boils. After molding or boiling, they died broke and in obscurity. Then he finished morning chores. When they first moved here and started goating, they worried about being on the edge of sparsely populated forest. No doubt there were prowling carnivores. Jimmy had seen bears, foxes, coy dogs. The goats had gotten more and more numerous, too numerous. Michelle researched every possible breed of protection dog, then she studied lamas. One day a long necked thing showed up in the field with the goats. She was white, about twice the size of the average doe, and not taking any funny business from anybody. Took awhile the lama got used to her charges or the charges got used to the lama. She led them around in workmanlike fashion. They trusted her and followed her into the brush nearby the woods. Jimmy named her Daisy. Seeing her, proud and watchful, among a herd of browsing goats was to Jimmy a beautiful sight. He didn't know if Duns Scotus or Aristotle would think it was a beautiful sight. He didn't know if anybody in the entire world but himself would think it was a beautiful sight. You had to know Daisy and you had to hope she was in a good mood before walking into the field to join the group. Jimmy stood by the fence watching does and Daisy browse. The complex relationships that transpired between him and them amazed him. Then he went into the house.
    Michelle sold milk to Deanna, who made cheese from it, so Jimmy filtered milk into the bottles for her, and then he put the rest into the big freezer for Michelle. There were dishes to wash, in house chores to take care of. It was mid-morning before everything was done. It was both too early and too late to call Dawn. Then he wondered if he should call Michelle this early. Estelle had a habit of staying up till all hours. In fact, she often didn't seem herself till ten when the cheerful werewolf came out in her. Michelle was early to bed, early to rise, but she'd keep her mother company till late for the first few days. He thought he might have a beer. Then, as he sat half asleep in his recliner chair in the living room, in the silence of his solitude, a great tumbling disturbance of memories bubbled up with a force that he was powerless against. Jimmy felt swept off his feet as if by a flood.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Working Man's Wife

I'll tell ya
I had a shape enough
to bring the boys around
and a tongue to keep 'em in line.
My big mistake was
I let that rowdy, two-fisted, crazy Jack,
whose dream of the big leagues
got drafted by the war,
seduce me across the parking lot.

Sure, he worked,
worked all those doubles at the factory
and I nursed his aching back.
But he started drinkin,
left me to bring up the kids alone,
teach 'em library books on summer days,
sitting there on the back lawn.

They're grown now.

And I'm tired.
Tired of him and the youngest boy, fightin...
Tired of his stupid jokes.
Tired of this house, this street.
Tired of life.

Tonight I could not cram down his throat
the pill keeps him from drinkin himself to death.
Out of his daughter's hand he took it like a baby.

What's anybody want with me any more?
Let him sleep in the cellar with the dog!
I'll scream down the stairs,
“Come on up, Jack, damn you,”
I'll let him know.
I don't want to be alone any more.
But how can I drag him out?
He won't, he won't...