Quadrille 68

Wringing out all
forty-four winks of sleep –
the twisted rag of night
leaves wrinkled sheets
damp with sweat.

Carrier pigeons of dreams
in full retreat
back across the Channel,
messages in invisible ink –
I misread “blessings”
which means “wounded”
in Napoleon’s French.



For dVerse Quadrille

Lease

A dusty piece of paper at the bottom of boxes
that rattled down the highway with me
from one place to the next
as I moved East,
said “Mineral Lease,
Lincoln County Oklahoma.”

Wasn’t worth one red hard earth cent,
but let me keep title I suppose
to the stories of families coming through
our ranch in Colorado,
A lease on my mother’s telling
what she saw of the Grapes of Wrath.

A claim too maybe on what lay below the topsoil
that blew away like the people –
what can’t be moved, but only extracted
like gold from the teeth of uncles
buried quickly
and left behind.

I made up tales my grandfather
won it in a poker game,
or took it as payment for a meal
at the back door,
but its origin as dark without genesis
as the sky

to the people of New York City
when it dimmed on Black Sunday,
in the Dust Bowl of ’35,
sky the color of deeds
done in wind
and grit.



For Miz Quickly

Randall On

First we randalled the cattle into the barn,
sort of like wrangling, but longer, leaner,
maybe more handsome too, milking it all
with my stainless steel machine,
uddering, wringing.
Later a calf coming but too large,
so reaching in and chaining its fetlocks,
slippery steel in hand heaving, braced
against the post birthing a bull
they name Randall. The bellowing
of steel, milk and pull.



For dVerse Poetics

Free for All

My first winter in Boston, I spent evenings trudging door-to-door, canvassing money and signatures for good causes. All these years later I’m still amazed anyone would open their door in the freezing wind and dark, my height and size bulked up further by my parka. Boston is known for its cold, both in temperature and in people, yet many folks seemed happy to talk to me. Often they would let me in to warm a bit while we chatted about toxic waste and such.

I hated the job and was lousy at the fundraising, but it was endlessly fascinating to go to each house or apartment, wait for the door to open, and peer inside people’s little world bubbles. Every street or building was full of dozens of small, weird, parallel universes where I could see, and sometimes even smell, the hopes and aspirations. Tchotchkes, photo collections, pots on the stove, tables set for dinner or homework, kids yelling, grandparents kvetching, friends in t-shirts smoking cigarettes, flocked velvet paintings of Elvis, brocade couches and seashell lamps, TV shows or radios or records playing, crosses and menorahs, rich and poor. It was the joy of people watching with a deeper view into the question “I wonder what that person’s life is like?”

What was most amazing – and I value still – is I began to realize my own life was also only a weird little bubble. I lived in merely another, very small, and arbitrary parallel universe. Just another snow globe. What I imagined as the Truth of my life was cut a bit down to size. Certainly, we are all permitted our truth, but none of us has The Truth. We are odd and hopeful creatures, you and I, burrowed into our nests for the winter along with the shiny pennies and pins and strings we collect like crows, praying we make it through to Spring.

I am a leaf
before the fall




For dVerse Haibun Monday