The scent of your breath across
the horizon of my sternum
& the pull & clench beneath,
is tectonic; white birds
rise & fly, die
I will bake you a raspberry creme cannoli
if you bite my earlobes nimbly;
I dream your skin tastes of
There are thirty of us under a torn canopy
where the sound of wind blowing against canvas
assaults me as if I were being beaten. We will
soon ride into the hills and **** pine; to fell
the mighty as if the mighty are horseweeds.
Every callused man here hates his weapon;
worn chainsaws that would make better
tools to fight wolves than walk the earth
clearing stands of timber.
Twelve of the original thirty loggers come back
for our 48th consecutive day; it rains as if prehistoric
elk hover over the camp and **** a lake upon us. Six men
go home within an hour because farming and stocking
cans of tuna at grocery stores appear more plausible than
wallowing in mire with saws, wedges, and chains with links
the size of your mother’s fist. It is work and *******
every man needs to eat or help feed a family. The money
is not good, conditions like Czechoslovakia WW II.
The six of us who remain, leave.
Don't talk to the old man
on the ladder he's likely
end to end full of leaves
kite string & black
He may mumble
teetering on the rungs
but don’t interrupt work
he has enough to handle.
There are fingerprints burned
into these kilns, leather hands
once held waists of women
with wide hips who gave
birth to children
with gaunt faces; now, the bricks
lay across America’s streets
We could have buckled to the sin;
two or three times before
Your mediocre dog
does not partake in birthday
parties or attend weddings,
bar and bat mitzvahs
nor dabble in oil paint,
yet the pooch makes
the most out its twelve
years of life and appears
happy when compared
to the seven billion
humans on earth.
Son, you were feral to remain within your sac;
the doctor slit your mother’s perineum
and you gasp breath.
My secret to you on that day is the same
as I whisper today; be the rare
pearl but do not
couple yourself to a strand, I did not raise
you to be like me,
not one bit.
Mothers are drowning their
children and piercing
hearts with nails
I search for the best lay of land
nestled between hillsides
where dirt roads wander
a place of birdsong
and gut laughter
few fence posts
and sleep filled
We stand on the sidewalk
cousin Jamie and me, with
a bible in my right hand,
I drape my left arm
around her lopsided
shoulders and cold brace;
she seldom smiles,
even as the shutter clicks.
Morning Sunlight keens like a mother
cries for her dying child & leaves
abandon their trees
while fall presumes winter
will glower like black
where the promise
of spring seems
Tonight, I pray tomorrow
an orchestra brazenly
plays, and hounds
bay in tune, the sun
melts a path in the snow,
blue morning stars glow;
all, so I can find my
sad and lonely
I listen as trucks
concrete to fill a bog;
the sound tells me to go
to the backyard
to hear songs from
Her home was clean, immaculate
summed the place, like washed china
pearl polished, Estelle’s maple floors
smelled of good soap & right
after Sunday lunch, before dessert
she would saunter
to the bathroom
Said a good Christmas Eve is sitting
in his recliner, TV cranked, drapes
bottle of Nyquil in one hand,
remote control in the other,
for the evening news
to end and football
Dark against glacier blue
formed like a Crucifix
silent as stone
Bald Eagles are numerous where I live in Iowa. Never a day goes by that I don't see dozens, if I want.
Winging on thermals
across river valleys
counting days until
Hair mottled like
an aged mare
one withered leg
a purple dress like
a frost nipped
I wish all my writing depicted gaggles
wedging south over mossy lakes.
They more often wander to legs,
tangerine tongues, the taste
of sweat and smell of cheap hairspray;
for thoughts like these, I feel no
I know she does not dream of me
nor should she; there are so
many beautiful things other
than whiskey *****.
She sat on the carpet with a bowl of Lucky Charms
on her lap watching ******-Doo when she
swiveled and asked, “Why do I have
a cleft palate?” Before I could
respond she sang, “Frosted
Lucky Charms, They’re
to the Flintstones.
rises from his recliner.
Peels off diaper, ******
a bronze-orange stream.
Drinks Sanka with cream,
eats two Little Debbie cakes.
Views MSNBC from 7 a.m.-noon,
consumes a can of tuna and glass of milk.
Sleeps from 12:30-4: 00 p.m., television drones,
supper—a bowl of oatmeal and an onion sandwich.
Tapes on a new diaper, watches MSNBC at 4:30 p.m.,
falls asleep, he is 87 years and four months old, lives alone.
You tied shoelaces together
and tried to hang yourself
The neighbors talked about
it for years over flapjacks
They couldn’t understand why
anyone would attempt
suicide. I knew
you were homely
and dull, kind of
too. You failed
at death, me
She boils animal bones
for one day, up three
times a night to check
the rolling calcium
and within the mineral water
she believes are the dreams
of cultures like Jews
mass graves, missing faces
from family portraits, no
violence against young
Two and one half flights up a home built
in 1899, and eight steps on a pull down
staircase, enter an attic, upon the pine
floor are carved the words,
I hate mommy.
I helped my brother-in-law move into a home in Corydon, IA. several years ago and in the attic of the home were carved the words.
With fly rod in hand
grampa slowly walks up the hill.
I search my hair for ticks because
cousin Charlie said your **** stands
a chance of falling off if one
bites you in the fall of the year.
shades her eyes as she squints
from the screened-in porch
toward grampa, he is on his knees,
fall and she runs;
this will probably be my last trip
to the loch with my grandparents.
My classmate Martha walked our school’s
halls for thirteen years, few students
talked to her because she drooled,
walked like a puppet, and had
greasy hair; there are poems
I can not finish.
These winter days go one by one
and seldom does much happen;
yesterday my cat murdered and ate
a chickadee on the deck and the blood
and snow mixture left a pattern
similar to what a painting of
Vincent Van Gogh’s severed ear
might look like on fresh linen.
I let the killer inside, she licked
her paws--curled on my lap.
No sound for hours,
looked under the sofa
behind two woodstoves,
beneath the sink where only
mama goes; finally, in the cellar
covered in a week of ***** clothes,
We sit three stools away and can not talk
bold enough to understand
She moves to the seat next to me and asks
if my bacon is crisp. I say more
or less—want a bite?
There is a tattoo of a cross on her forehead.
My cousin Beryl done that to me when
I was 12, horsin’ around, he was 19
and no good.
She goes to *** or powder her tattoo; I pay
my bill and walk outside under a sky
so blue I want to cry.
On their third date, Sue forgot
her diaphragm; the infant died at birth.
Second child was touched,
she & the boy moved to town.
Dave got the house, Chrysler
& an unfinished chicken coop.
I don’t want to be present
when any child figures out
that much of our world
has descended into
dead toads atop a white pillow
where those children must lay their heads
to sleep at night for
the next eight decades.
Two Snowy Egrets land.
One is lame.
Surrounded by cattails.
The other ascends.
Remember when we buried a stray
dog under the old church bell
in your backyard? You said
the dog belonged to the *******
mechanic south of the school
& his mom set the animal
loose because she was jealous;
it did not make sense
then, it does, today.
In every American state
county and town
women walk barefoot
on broken glass
looking for an
Entangled in plastic
and fishing line
eyes pecked by
crows; a new
I gather smells from
the garden near
every drop drank
will be worth
End of year gardening.
Your hair falls
on my chest,
I call you
you say giddy-
I encircled her waist
with my hands and
lifted her, not as
a trophy, but
Brother, this all you need to know about my life --
I live near a river where hawks **** & coyotes
run past with varments in their jaws
to be eaten-- fur, sinew
There are no ****** Rottweilers tethered to steel poles
outside basement taverns.
No emaciated men picking **** mites
on their faces or women staring
blankly into the fog of their day.
Not a bad smell, a dead bird on a lawn,
an old person wearing a sweater too tight
or a poor kid with a cleft palate; not in Euphoria.
From a straight back wooden chair, I see
a cyan-blue ceramic bowl filled with
tangerines next to a desktop radio
tuned to NPR &
out the kitchen bay window
birds bicker over seeds
overflowing a feeder,
& a raccoon scours
the earth below --
I keep in mind the fact
all of these things will
be absent from my
If things worked out I might have
stood on an Olympic podium
holding a gold medal or
awarded a ten thousand dollar
check and a mahogany framed
certificate for winning
a Pulitzer Prize; instead, on good
days I run down alleys looking
for **** spots and comb
streets for drunks and lame
people who make for
Atop a quilt
beneath an oak
Hair a muss
Scent of rye;
Canada Geese wedge over the river
this evening as four Snowy
Egrets fish bankside; on
the Sixth Street
Bridge, a man
dangles his pecker between the rails
and streams jaundice yellow, a Ford
squad passes, flashes a red
beacon and drives
Leaves mound like
wheat in silos,
I’ve trees that need pruning,
weeds in the fence line
beg to be yanked, a coyote
caroused in the chicken
coop and slats should
be nailed over
the void; seventy degrees
is predicted today
and no work will
I lean against a stucco building
that has a turquoise whale painted
on the sidewalk in front and pop in
a piece of Wrigley’s as vendors
unload eggplant and plump onions,
two women walk past, one isn’t
wearing a bra and the other
should be wearing two,
I see a neighbor listening as three
Jamaican bucket drummers argue over
cigars, my neighbor nods and flips his
Pall Mall into the street, a gal walking
a Lhasa Apso snuffs the cigarette with
her heel, the dog hikes on a crate of
cabbage sitting atop a guitar case;
bravo to you God, a better morning
I could not have lived.
Her first name did not fit
she wore cloddy shoes &
knees & elbows were
dead skin & lived
above a bar with
brother & invisible mother,
she ate cardboard, chalk,
paper & paste;
Glory was her name.
One day while ******* beer from the curb into the street
you were hit by a Toyota. Split your forehead like
a cleaved melon. You are officially a gimp;
your left eyeball wanders & you live in
June of 1986 & talk to the radio.
Hope this is read to you,
your friends wept