The sound of ice cubes
tumbling in a glass
broke the hypnotic haze
of the afternoon sun.
I pictured her drink
a fruity, tropical concoction
to combat the stifling
a nice contrast
to the deep amber
of my sweating beer bottle.
The ice fell again
and my gaze drifted
over the curve of fitted jeans.
and crossed legs --
the unmistakable red sole
of Luis Vuitton rocking
on a lazy right foot.
She looked bored
I thought to buy her drink
but that seemed like an expensive order.
I left something in Kentucky
just north of Jellico
lost, now in the Cumberland
Youth is never wasted --
Our youth is spent in waste
When she took my hand and led me
over the rocks and into the stream
I wasn't sure if it was the cold water
or the feel of her skin against mine
that caused my stomach
to clinch and rise to my throat
More likely it was fear
As her body moved over mine
I felt a fearful, spiritual sensation
The sermon that morning
was on the evils of the flesh
and the sin of earthly desire
That preacher had never been chest deep
in a mountain spring
staring up at a noon sun
through strands of auburn hair
and eyes illuminated by water
glistening in the mid-day light
I left her at the mailbox
standing at the intersection
of the gravel road and her dirt driveway
As her fingers slipped from mine
I asked if I could walk her to church
next Sunday, too
The stand of timber
on my great-grandfather’s farm
died an unaristocratic death --
In the Spring of 1987
the old man left;
quietly and alone, he released
back the breath given to him
at his birth.
His body, rested without a headstone.
Three volleys stilled the air
in hushed reverence broken by
the sound of taps playing in a
When the salutes were rendered
and the flags lowered
black smoke rose to the heavens
as the land was harvested for the precious
rock that lived beneath.
I feel the devil calling me,
a voice I choose not to hear
He's called before
when I was young
But even then I refused to listen
Growing up with an innate sense of right
The path to righteousness was easy to find
but laden with snares and pitfalls
I've been caught in my share (more than) --
In the woods behind my house
about a mile hike
stands an old wooden church,
abandoned and fallen to ruin
I've stood on the weathered floor
and stared up at the vaulted ceiling
The only sound I heard
was the sound the wind makes
when it blows through an empty tunnel
When I was a child
I heard the Voice of God
Now I search for it
in the decaying wood
and broken altar
Sitt'n and sipp'n on a PBR
Right hand pick'n on a steel guitar
The boy's roll up, say it's time to go
Gonna drive all night to see one more show
-- - - - - - -
Gotta stop in town gonna grab my girl
Hit that dance floor with spinning twirl
Bebop bopp'n with a stand-up bass
Count'n my steps, baby, just in case
-- - - -- - - -
Take'n a break with a jack and coke
Saw another sweet honey, she was tugg'n my coat
She pulled me out and across that floor
Ten seconds later we out the door
- -- -- - - - - - -
Drink'n moonshine whiskey from a mason jar
Stolen from the trunk of her daddy's black car
Heads bobb'n with the drummers beat
Feel my toes tapp'n gotta move my feet
- - - -- -- - - -
Back inside I saw my girl
Look on her face, man she was really sore
I gave her a drink from the mason jar
She loved me all night in the back of that car.
- -- - - - - - - - -
When I first saw him
Standing on a street corner
He was wearing a sign around his neck
It was simple, white heavy stock paper
Written on with black magic marker.
I never got close enough to read the sign.
I walked passed on the other side of the road
Careful to avoid an uncomfortable glance.
Yesterday I saw a student in the library
He wore a sign around his neck,
The writing facing his clean pressed shirt;
A social experiment
To see how long people would hold
His gaze before reading the sign on his chest.
I observed this for an hour
And wondered at the awkwardness
Before I took my turn and stared into his eyes
For a solid minute, I thought about the man
On the street corner who I see every day
But have never looked at.
I reached out and turned the sign on the student's chest
“I’m Human,” is all that it said.
I walked into the brewery and ordered up a beer
Sat down at the bar, said I was waiting for you here
When I finished drinking I walked across the floor
I saw a couple of old buddies from back before the war
I called over the waitress and bought them another round
They patted me on the shoulder, been a while since I hit town
It’s sure a lot of fun, I’m glad that I’d stopped in
But I’m looking across the room wondering if you’d come again
I settled with the waitress with her hand set on her hip
I reached deep into my pockets and found her a little tip
Then I walked out the door pulled my collar against then chill
Saw a couple street musicians playing in front of Macey’s grill
I handed them some money and they played a cheerful tune
I hung out on the street hoping that you’d show up soon
I listened to the trumpet and I moved with the beat
I watched the drummer keeping time tapping with his feet
The November air had started to get a little cool
So I walked down the street thought I’d shoot a little pool
I walked into the pool hall everybody started to cheer
They slapped me on the back and they bought me a little beer
I saw an old girlfriend from way back in the day
She put her arm around me and I knew I couldn’t stay
So I walked up Second Avenue and found a used bookstore
I stared into the window and thought I saw you sitting on the floor
I opened up the door and heard the bell ring
I got a cup of coffee and listened to Sinatra sing
I read a little Kipling and some Pablo Neruda too
I walked across the room and sat down next to you
I reached over and gently brushed my hand against your hand
You didn’t pull away even though you knew you can
I read to you from Byron and paused for a little while
You looked into my eyes and then I saw you smile.
I felt you in my bed last night
felt your weight and your breath
your hair and your breasts
as they lay on my chest.
I heard your voice call to me in the night
the words soothed me and I slept
in your embrace knowing that our dreams
were merged, connecting us in a universe
set aflame and never consumed.
I saw you in the morning glow
through sun-filtered curtains,
the light shining on the curve of your mouth,
your lips calling me to your embrace.
Strings of melodies dance in the air
With scents of honeydew and citrus
My tongue reaches out to catch the drops
As they pass over my head and my ears
Are enchanted with the sounds of viola
Plucked in a deep rhythmic harmony
And my thirst is quenched by the juices of
Sweet memories passing by.
It’s a patchwork world
Full of patchwork people
Made up from pieces of last year’s lives
And patchwork families
Share patchwork time
Eating quiet meals from take-out dives.
With patchwork feelings
And patchwork ties
Too many husbands and too many wives.
Sleepless nights slaving over syllables
written in invisible ink
my eraser is at hand
in case a word shows through.
I shouldn't care
it's not like anyone will read it,
No one will see the tiny glimpse
of my soul, exposed to the world
or hear the scream coming from my lips
I keep them pursed together,
no sound can escape
Fingers spell-out the hearts desires
while the mind extinguishes any sign
What is it about beer
That makes my poetry
Bearable, even good;
Something about how
The words flow across
The page, or move;
They sure seem to be
Blurred lines shaped
Forming words that
Move hte srpite
Adn t76554rrrtghgfvbj u I I ibvvvq2aesdftbuml,3w4drfrbuhlinjmok,pl
I keep this address for you,
hoping one day you'll find your way home.
I know you won't,
it's been too long;
too many years
have wiped this place from your memory
or maybe it's my memory that's faded
or maybe it's jaded
with dreams and visions
existing between the realms of imagination
and twisted reality,
where numbness isn't a curse
and I don't see your silhouette
in the shadows of the trees
The person at this address has moved
He went to find his mind
it left a while ago
For a year he's been fumbling around
aimlessly without a brain
bumping into walls and stubbing his toe
walking blindly through cities with nowhere to go
Now he's left,
in search of cerebral peace
I'll let you know if he finds it.
"Pardon me, boy, but isn't that
the Chattanooga Choo-choo"
People watched as we sang
on the banks of the Tennessee River.
We danced on the sidewalk with the setting sun
to the rhythm of clapping hands
and a far away sax, moaning through crowded alleys.
The city breaths at night
and pulses with the sounds
of street musicians, playing
for a few bucks and some coins.
The foot bridge is busy
on a warm Spring night
joggers dodge tourists
and the locals ignore them both;
children lick ice cream
and mom searches for the next wine bar,
while college students huddle under the bridge
and lovers, young and old
are moved by the mood of the city lights.
I was born in the Bluegrass state
and I love to hear the fiddle
strings hum. Banjo pickers
get all the fame
and you can hear the clogger's heels
tapping through the holler
But when I'm down on the river front
and in the mood to play
I crave the pull of the slide trombone
and the sad moan of a saxophone
gets me in the mood
So quit sending me all these bluegrass toons
Scruggs and Flatt, and all that
Cuz, baby Jazz is where it's at.
I knew a man with a rowing boat
It came with a fine LaMancha goat
But the goat couldn’t row it couldn’t hold and oar
so I traded it to a man for a 3-month boar
But the boar couldn’t help, it didn’t have a thumb,
right about now I was feeling mighty dumb
So I swapped the boar for a hunting dog
but he jumped from the boat and was lost in the fog
So I walked back to town, to the local store
and I saw the old dog lying flat on the floor
I looked at the store-keeper and offered a trade
he gave me some flower, some beans, and his maid
But the maid was lazy, she had never worked in her life
so I took her home and I made her my wife
That didn’t help, she still wouldn’t cook
so I bought the newest edition of a recipe book
She opened the cover and looked inside
turned a few pages, closed it and sighed
I sat down at the table and waited for my meal,
that’s when I realized, I had made a terrible deal
I hopped on a train and rode into town
Stepped off of the rail in sight of a clown
I saw his red nose and way too big feet
He had been bitten by a dog, right square in the seat
It's a good thing it wasn't on the other side, I said
If he'd grabbed you by the balls you might rather be dead
I looked in his face and saw his white tear
He pointed to his pants saying he got me right here
I could see his pants would need some patching
But finding the right fabric would take some serious matching
I bent down to look and examined the spot
And thought this clown deserved exactly what he got
Right in the middle of his rosy butt cheeks
Was a tattooed lady with really big peaks
I inquired about the woman painted on his tush
He smiled real big and started to blush
"Have you ever loved a girl so much that it hurt?
Well I did and she left me broke in the dirt
So I tattooed her likeness where I didn't have to see it
But I could picture her clear every time I took a shit."
Standing on a mountain top
looking for my home.
The rolling hills,
green with tobacco are gone,
cleansed from the earth.
Now I see bare slopes
and muddy ground,
peeled away one layer at a time.
I look for my home
but there is nothing here to see.
Listening to the night sounds
My companions at night;
just the sounds of creaking floorboards
and the feel of the wind against the walls
The click of the keys as I type remind me
that I'm here, in the now and not lost in a dream,
a dream where the wind doesn't blow against the house
and the sounds on the floor are you walking
back to me.
Lawn darts and pop tarts
and I'm still here
Skateboard ramps and Boy Scout camps
there's danger everywhere
Bicycle races and bloody faces
fist fights in the yard
Swimming pool slides and high dives
look out "cannon ball"!!
water hoses and busted noses
everyone survived --
Kids today think they have it made
memories are all inside.
Yesterday I hit my son with a golf ball
Today I hit him with a snowball
Tomorrow we're playing baseball
If you don't like the weather
wait 20 minutes
If you don't like getting hit with round, white balls
keep your ass inside
or learn how to duck and catch
“Where’re you from?”
That’s usually the first question I get when people first meet me.
I guess I am a little bit different,
after all, I was born on a hill-side farm, so steep
that daddy had to go out every morning and turn the cows around
so their legs wouldn’t grow shorter on one side.
But, that’s life in the mountains,
when every day is a hard-scrabble fight just to get by.
Most people don’t believe it;
don’t believe that there are real people still living
a hand-to-mouth life,
still, fight’n every day for tomorrow’s breakfast
and worrying if this year’s corn will make
or if a flood will ruin the sweet potatoes before the Fall harvest --
Worrying about whatever critter’s got the hens spooked
so bad they ain’t laid in two weeks
all while little Junior’s got the croup
and the nearest Doctor is more than an hour away
we ain’t got insurance anyway
and who’s got money to pay.
It’s work six days a week, sun-up to sundown,
but Sunday’s are for praying
and listening to the preacher lead us in “Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,”
just so we’re reminded of how blessed we really are
while we try to hold our eyes open
because we were up all night with a sick mare trying to foal
and the two hours of sleep we did get
were interrupted by a wheezing cough from Grandma’s room.
But every other week we get a trip to town,
with a stop at the feed store and Wal-Mart
so we can look at what-not while momma buys flour
and store-bought eggs--
until the hens start lay’n again.
The rain on the roof, it’s hypnotic;
taking me back home
The tin roof on an old screened-in porch
summer nights we slept there,
escaping the southern heat,
feeling the cool breeze after a thunderstorm --
I smell the moisture in the air
fresh rain on the grass outside
Steam rising from the paved road.
The rhythmic sound sends me to sleep
I see my mother and my grandmother
shucking corn and shelling beans.
I catch nightcrawlers with my grandfather.
Tomorrow we’re going fishing.
"Ain't seen Jimmy in a while."
"Jimmy? That dude? He doesn't come around much anymore. --
Not since he got married." The guy talking was Bill, chuckling as he chalked his cue.
The rest of the room chuckled a little bit too.
"Yea, we told him not to do it."
"Shoot, look what it did to me?"
"Yea, me too, glad I learned the first time around. Won't be making that mistake again."
“First time! Damn, Pete, you didn’t learn the first three times -- Hey Bill, it doesn't matter how much you chalk that thing it ain't going to help." Joe was the jokester in the bunch.
"Up yours, Joe," Bill replied, leaning over to take his shot
"Remember you got stripes." Bill was notorious for hitting someone else’s balls.
"Screw you," he said and missed his shot. Everyone laughed.
"I need another drink. Shooting pool with you guys is going to turn me into an alcoholic,"
"Hey, get me one too."
"Yea, me too, Jack and Coke."
"Beer for us. You're a good dude, Bill."
"Yea, I don't care what Jake said about you, you're a good dude."
"Every one of you can kiss my ..." his voice trailing off as he walked up to the bar.
"Not your night, huh, Bill?' Grace, the bartender had been working here longer than any of the guys in the room had been coming.
"It's all in good fun."
"Sure it is." She said. "Here's your drinks."
"Thanks, put it on my tab, Pete got the last one."
"Already did, Sweetie," Grace called everyone sweetie, except Jim, there was some history there, but no one cared too much.
As far as bartenders go, she wasn't bad; wasn't bad to look at either; that's all these guys cared about. She was quick witted and could take a joke too, a necessity if you wanted to make a living serving drinks in a private club like this.
Bill took the drinks to the guy's and Grace leaned over the counter, watching the game, making sure her breasts were pushed up just enough. -- She needed the extra tip money.
The guys shot pool and joked with each other, calling names and telling crude stories. Grace laughed a little and flashed a little skin every now-and-then to keep their attention. It was slow for a Thursday.
"Hey, Jimmy we were just talking about you."
"Really?" Jimmy smiled, still standing in the door. He was really a likable guy, but he didn't fit in with these guys. He liked them alright and they liked him, but only in small doses.
"Hey, Jimmy, you in, I need a partner, twenty bucks a game."
"Yea, come on, they don't call you 'Big Money Jim' for nothing.
"Big Money Jim? More like 'Small Change James'," Grace said, just loud enough for Jim to hear.
When I was eighteen I swore to be single
Free to play and always mingle.
And later after all my friends had settled to married life
The poor beasts chained to their wives;
I went home and dreamed in my head
Of the beautiful girl who would soon share my bed.
Each night, I swear it seemed
A different girl would come visit me.
They were all gorgeous, glorious and kind
But none of them would get very much of my time.
Because you see I was not interested in settling down
And buying a home on a plot of ground.
Until one night in a drunken mood
I accidentally started my brood.
She was not my typical fare,
But I took her home and treated her square.
We danced and played late into the night
Then she left, gone from my sight.
I admit, I thought of her from time to time
Which troubled me deeply, because I was in my prime
So another prize, I set out to find.
I needed a distraction to get her off my mind.
But she was sealed in my brain, different than the rest
And I saw her one day warming an egg in her nest.
Cautiously I approached her and bid her good morning.
She sheepishly smiled and said “glad to see you, darling.”
I wondered aloud at the roundness beneath her apron
And learned that I was indeed the unfortunate patron.
I must admit that I thought to bid her adieu,
But instead hurried to the Courthouse where we said: “I do.”
I bought a home for my new bride.
Close to town and a train to ride.
A little cottage with two bedrooms
One for us and one for you know whom.
It was a lovely place, painted a shade too bright,
And at times just a touch too tight.
Then one night in a raging storm
A lovely baby girl to us was born.
Her head was a little warped and wrinkled,
But her eyes were bright and I swore they twinkled.
A more beautiful story could never be told
Than the birth of a child, bare and bold.
As the seasons changed and our fortunes grew
So too did the size of our bustling crew.
After ten years of marriage to my blissful mate
The size of our home had risen to eight.
Our tiny white cottage, long forgotten,
For we had bought a farm only slightly downtrodden.
And there we lived peacefully for years
Wiping noses and drying tears.
Schooling and coaching our children along;
Dreading the day when they would all be gone.
Until one night my bride stirred me awake
And another baby, that night we would make.
My pencil lead broke
and my pen was dry
so I tuned the radio
to a Nashville Station
but this late at night
the only sounds that came were voices
advertising household cleaners
It was that or Late Saturday night preaching,
a repeat from last Sunday;
so I listened to a man
get grease stains from laminate flooring
and burned oil from a porcelain stove top
while I searched for a sharpener
to trim my pencil to a writable level
Running barefoot through the pasture
feeling the fescue between my toes.
Ten years old, maybe a little more,
no worries, no cares, just a few chores.
It's summer in the mountains.
We catch crappie and smallmouth
with grubs from a rotten log.
The Cumberland River is wild,
an endless treasure of adventure.
Trout rule the streams that feed the rapids,
impossible for you, but we know their secrets.
Dusk is falling.
I can hear my mother calling
It snowed today
not a remarkable event
The weather does not impress me
Even as the grass turns green
and the azaleas bloom
I know they will die again next year
But today I wiped the snow
from the lid of my charcoal grill
opened a beer and lit the coals
The snow on my patio melted
uncovering the yellow film of pollen
and I was reminded that spring came early
and this year there will be no flowers in April.
"Though my life may end over
the South Pacific Ocean, my
thoughts turn to the many
springs gone by and those yet
Unknown Japanese Pilot, WWII
Hear my voice on a cool Spring evening
It whispers through the trees,
carried on the sea breeze across the coastal plain
to rest on your gentle lobe.
And see my face in the dusky haze
staring deeply into your brown eyes set aglow with the setting sun.
Feel my hands in your hair, my breath on your face,
my lips on yours when you look to the sky
and feel the morning dew kiss you softly.
Remember me when you close your eyes
and reach for me in your dreams.
No sleeping in,
everyone gets a bath
hair parted to the right.
Momma's got her best dress out,
black, with white flowers
faded and frayed at the edges,
no one will notice,
that's what she tells herself
running her fingers over the lace collar.
It was beautiful when she bought it
but that was years ago.
Her white pumps aren't too scuffed.
Maybe next month she'll get a new dress.
Maybe She said the same thing last month.
She never cries about it, but I can see the tears,
she tries to hold them back as I walk past her
to get last year's hand-me-downs from the dryer.
"Time to go," she says, grabbing her bible,
King James, worn and coming apart at the binding,
but a Bible should be well used.
She gives us each a pat on the head with it
as we march past her,
single file down the broken wooden steps
and into the car,
it starts on the third try.
We'll get there on time,
and listen to the preacher tell us
how humility is found in poverty.
is never the right answer
when she asks,
how much have you had to drink.
Didn't the marriage counselor
say "always be honest,
never be afraid to show your true feelings"
I want my money back.
In the depths of my mind
I sit behind
a desk of smoky glass.
And in it, I see
a reflection of me,
drifting through my withered past.
The smile is gone
and the lines are clear
they point to my troubled soul.
The eyes are gray
with a ghostly haze,
no trace of the blue they hold.
The hair that is there
is not the same
as my once dark and thickly mane.
It's lighter and thinner
with streaks of winters
gone so long ago.
I sit and I stare
at the face, that is there
and I wonder is anything left?
I'm tired and I'm scared
because I never cared
about where the road would end.
So I traveled through
with nothing to lose
searching for salvation around the bend.
Now I face the world at a pace
that is much too fast for me.
I really want to slow it all down
so I can change the face I see.