Day fifteen // evil but human
Joe & the poors
He eats with a spoon clutched between his fingers
the same as us, he eats instant oatmeal or canned
soup or mac & cheese made from a box. It’s poor
culture to eat because you must, but hate what
you must eat. It’s also poor culture to eat
because you hate until your BMI tips
& the doctor at the free clinic offers you lecture
instead of medicine. You suffer cramps in your legs
because the thing you can afford cannot sustain.
But he doesn’t consider that, he doesn’t consider
that there are poors like him, even poorer
& they’re kids, they got their food from a faith
pantry and their boxed mac & cheese comes with
a verse that teaches the daughter is less than
the son & so it goes. He gets his news from
talk radio, chew & then listen, bite & then stew.
He doesn’t understand why he has to work so hard
for what the other poors get for free, bite &
then blood. This is the only time he will bite
his tongue. Nine to five he is all misery. At
lunch, his paint-stained fingers color his sandwich
bread, bite & then shudder. He tells the woman
on his shift she’s a failure to her sex & the
quiet guy from Guatemala that he needs to go
the fuck back home. All misery in the afternoon,
the radio is on during the drive home, he smokes
a cigarette in traffic and turns up the volume
so those fucking lazy kids can hear his rage over
their circus boom-boom music. His tongue is still
sore and so he looks at it in the rearview,
a Beemer idles behind him, the occupant visibly
shaking their head at the noise & the smoke &
he clams up, turns the volume down, puts out
the cigarette. He thinks it won’t do any good
to alienate folks like that, see it’s only
a matter of time… He’s a poor now, but his is
a temporary case, you see his mom always told
him he was bright & if he worked hard enough…
Day sixteen // Poem about play
Look at the field, wide
as a summer afternoon, grass
ankle-deep & wet, chirping
with little creatures which
jump when you bound through,
momma said those bugs don’t
bite & we’re unafraid. They
ain’t bees and they didn’t
land my cousin Jim in the
emergency room. Nope, they’re
crickets or grasshoppers or
maybe mantis. They have arms
& legs that sing like ours
when we run & then jump,
rolling down the hills for
no lack of slides. I’ve
felt enough in this life to
know it’s grand to do as the
little bugs & race through
the field — legs singing,
lungs burning until we
collapse in the shade
of the big oak tree.
Day seventeen // family anecdote
They say we’re French, or maybe
German. Or French-German from
a time when the borders were
less than clear — displaced
farmers dying in boats &
in English gutters, we were
politics, we were shipped
to the Americas & we became
soldiers & Sheriffs & poor
farmers, it’s true. No family
rises together in the new
world. It’s every man for
himself. Son with a musket
ball in his hip, tar & feather
& dinner with the general &
Day eighteen // completion (using Gluck’s “Mock Orange”)
Sly & silent,
a path carved through camus stalks
happiness this way, girl,
sleep lies ahead.
Open to the sweet sky
truer than the lying spring & its blooms,
true in its beginnings, in its middles,
we can see from here to there
carved & then rejoined & opened & then healed
One mocking song, a dying bird’s call,
driven into the ground at the answer that asked
& then flew away.
Hollow as a fallen tree
writhing within its death
Spine to bed
hand over mouth
tongue set to stun
I hate with so much
it’s nearly love
Not stars in the distance,
nor boughs over doors,
it’s not the moon…
Day nineteen // Erasure
Richard was eight
Angles at the edge of the block
like a ghost
piles of gray forgotten
spectral beginning or ending
the boy in the foreground
so young & so over
this story is all over.
Day twenty // rebellion
A dungeon master’s query
How many heads are on this dragon?
How many wear business-casual
& drink mead with wenches after
the clock has been punched?
How many have motorcycles in their garage?
Tattoos hidden under their sleeves?
How many have dyed their hair magenta or dyed it back,
midnight black when the gray started showing?
I mean who is it that you are fighting, Tim?
Who is your mage studying to meet?
Are you sure someone from your party didn’t break camp
& brave the dark woods for that dirty dragon d—
What is it that you’re saying? I have never met “the man,”
I have met many whose tongues I would gladly have borrowed.
I have met those with hearts like wet pumice.
I’ve met men who would wound to hide their own…
How many heads must fall?
How many vertebrae severed
before your sword dulls,
useless as a feather.
How many heads are on this dragon?
& why are you so sure it’s worth your effort?
Day twenty-one // Narcissus
Water-born, pining & grayed
love reflected & drawn away,
a docile pool that lacked the depth
to become mind & wind & hair & flesh.
Oh my love, heart is ill-defined
the passion stirring behind our eyes
caught up in breezes to still our lungs
love haunts our minds & charms our tongues.
Grant me time to lay this out
lake-magic working against true doubt,
you couldn’t love me, so let me rest,
blooming in the eyes of nemesis.