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
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
For Miz Quickly
The sugar bug comes in the dark,
sipping on dreams –
betraying the sun
that made sweetness of day.
Early to bed, earthen to rise –
the night flowers
moonbend to jazz
crumbling from stars:
The Naked Lily,
The Zagging Heart Jasmine,
The Rooster Red Rose.
For dVerse Quadrille
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,
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
She sang Pistol Packing Mama
over our cribs,
and Home on the Range.
A mother’s voice
wandering in the drybeds
of dust, rock, burr.
We lived in the next breath of desert,
the refrain of yucca and sage,
waiting for a lullaby of rain.
For dVerse Quadrille
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
Unquiet harbor –
bay at the moon
as if that last piece
of scrofulous cheese
out of reach in the trash.
on the river –
your shadow splinters
in the streetlight,
which you slip
between my ribs
like a shiv of love.
For dVerse Quadrille
Noon on the Hudson, helicopters chopping
at the sky like a deli salad –
a bowl of blue tossed with
joggers and stumblers and strollers,
a tattoo of Sinatra in wisps of clouds
whispering New York New York while
dogs from every nation make their embassy,
the river embossed with the whack whack
wake of ferries propelled from shore to skyline
and back again, spinning through
the turnstile and the man punching your ticket
like a prizefighter, the main event, ringside
at the Garden.
For The Twiglets