As always, for CC

And now we come to it. We come
to the source of it all, and I
haven’t mentioned you once. How is that?
Is it progress, or is this back- sliding?
Do I want you to tell me I’m worthy?
Perhaps I still do. You lurk in
cheesecloth dark, a humpback skull
in a budget apartment clinging to the ceiling
unable to help your size. Those forests are still
there— in Cherokee, in Gatlingburg, in
Sonoma, on Hunting Island. The turtle shell
cannot hold a wider circle. Come east.
Follow the Greenway down and down.
Wear your Best Shoes. Bring your hair.
I marry in November. Come home to me.
I’m no longer your home. Give me away and dance.

Walk on by, Major

Past walks Scott Peeples,
Professor or artist smartly
dressed in corduroy cream
pants, grey on grey grid
button down. Fingers grip
Essential Dylan and a glittery
black capo. A nod to Ashley Harmon,
no, Bryson, maiden and maiden and
matron. A copy of To Kill a Mockingbird,
shattered spine, August and Everything
After. Baton passed to Lisa Rudd,
small frame ruddy cheeks,
Izzy Willy Nilly and a
monogrammed Tervis. Severe. A look
is left for her, for Carol Ann,
for Carol Ann who needs no surname.
Carol Ann with the yoga mat. Carol Ann
with the children. Carol Ann
in the pastry shop with Elizabeth
Bishop handing off Stripe and Yellow and hope.

What we saved from the fire

Never let a blind man
tell you he can’t see
what must be seen.
The treasure you seek
doesn’t deserve you.
Can you love me?
This infernal fertile
marsh hovers in my mind.
Fade and fade and
establish subservience.
A puff of light, and I’ll
be gone. Will you
love me then?

Dirt

Fragile pill-bug,
rolly poly round.
Loosened carapace
crumbling under
rotting log. Black
soil vibrates with
grubs. Settlers in
a settled plot.
Hungry chomps,
gushy squirms,
chitinous chitinous
chitinous. Pill-bug.
Rolly poly friend.

Failure

Failure isn’t the Worst Thing.
There are plenty of things
I wouldn’t rather be. More still
I wouldn’t rather do. Failure
isn’t the end. This isn’t
Self Help. It is an End.
It bites like a horsefly
as you drift off to sleep.
But you can sleep again,
even before the bite heals.
Let it heal. Rest easy. Sleep again.

Yellow yellow

A yellow jacket swarm swimming
in the birch-beech copse, corpulent
corpse clears us all from its mind.
A feebly fumbling fellow fawns
over such luck, lacking decorum,
lackadaisical, limber and lithe
and lonesome. Loathesome fellow he
in that yellow jacket feral
and frightening and fit for the feast.
Beastly brethren on stolen
stingers strive for less than each
could earn. Earth eats the rest,
restless and resilient and ripe.

Flying while pained

CHS to CLT. CLT to STL.
Baby steps aided by flexeril
and hydrocodone, backpack
weighted for counter balance.
I wait in line to pass through
security, guzzle the remnants
of my Nalgene water lest they
make me “dispose of it.” As if that small
amount of water could bring down
a plane. As if they could stop
it. Remove your shoes, laptops
in separate bins. Empty your pockets.
We all have it memorized since 9/11.
Boarding passes come on phones
now. I’ll bet no one predicted that.
Baby steps to the lectern. Baby
steps through the line. Slowly,
slowly. Baby steps to Terminal B, to
the gate. Courtesy check for my
rolling luggage? Yes Ma’am. Solid
tip. Cool of flexeril rolls down.
CHS to CLT. CLT to STL.
There and back again.

Don’t hide the madness

I hear Ginsberg in whispers,
“Don’t hide the madness.”
Okay, Al. Shall I let it
yoke me so I can pull it
around the square, flies sticking
to my cheeks, vertebrae wailing
for reprieve? Shall I let it
choke me until my eyes bulge
to get The Greatest Distance
when the madness finally dislodges
and launches skyward for all
to see? Shall I make of it
a joke to tell the masses
from a brightly lit stage, crooned
into a microphone so no one
sees it for what it is? Shall I
relinquish control so you may
poke me with it in an angry gash
until my cries turn to snarls
and my eyes glow red?

We don’t take ourselves too
seriously around here.

Peace

After driving 362 miles
down Highway 1 in a rented
Camero, we stopped in the suburbs
of some coastal California town.
We followed hand written
signs on white poster board
that read Yard Sale
to a newer development, cookie
cutter houses with white vinyl
siding on cookie cutter lawns.
Arid. One lone table on
folding legs, also white, standing
on the white concrete driveway.
Women’s shoes of all types,
size 7, lined up underneath, the only
shade to be found. Sun in late
February is soothing. A Hispanic
woman smiled at me from the porch,
walked over. I smiled back
and searched the table for anything
I could want. “How much?” I held
a pink woven bracelet with
a metal plate. “50 cents,”
her accented reply. I gave her
two quarters and turn. Back
to the car. Buckle up. Bracelet
cool in my hand, cool
on my wrist. Metal plate read
Peace. We stayed on the back roads.

Back roads

SR 153 somewhere between
Mullins and Savannah
is dotted with stone white
oaks, dead as hands clawing
from swampy graves.
Devil’s Dining Room Rd
doesn’t lead where you think
it will. There are three foot tall
flowers with orange heads
and orange lips foretelling war
on the uncut shoulder of a newly
paved road. They cry into
the ditch and feed the crayfish.
They fear a moving blade.
They should.

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