The Mystery of Marmalade

The best citrus
grows on the trees
that still grace
Marjorie’s old place
at Cross Creek.

In the evening
you can stand
on the bridge
and hear frogs
by the dozen.

Daytime, visit
the garden and see
chickens and mallards
among the tomatoes.

But to fill winter jars
with delectable orange,
grapefruit, and kumquat
delight, you must lock your
elbows, grasp the long poles,
and pull with all your might.

The New Order of Things

Most were not ready, in the fall of 2016,

when suddenly all the rules were changed.

Before that, we assumed, reasonably, that

men would continue to walk upright, and

not grab women just because they felt an urge.

We thought the time had passed that white people,

even in uniform, could just haul off and hurt or kill

a person of color.  That is no kind of valor.

Didn’t we fight for a civil society, for civil rights?

We might start dropping nuclear bombs again

if we haven’t learned anything from the Nazi fight.

In case it needs to be said: the rules of a civilization

depend on civilized behavior, not mob mentality

or military might. Get it right, Mr. President. You won

by hook or crook. Now give our country back. Act

like a statesman, not a moronic country hack.

Bath Time

I’m in the tub,

where every night

you sit and read,

turning the corners down

on the pages you like.

 

It’s been almost a year

since you banned me

from your life.  i know

your symptoms and

can never, ever tell.

 

You would damn me

to hell and outer Mongolia

if i tried again to get you to

ask your doctor about the

pill they give sometimes.

 

You know the one I mean.

It could have given us

a little more time. I really

liked living here, making you

French toast and bacon.

 

Now I only visit

when you’re gone.

 

 

Katy and Her Fiddle

Quite a week it’s been,

wars and rumors of wars;

lying, sniveling politicians.

Like my mother used to say

I want to shake them until

their eye-teeth rattle.

 

Quite a week it’s been.

Heart monitors, EKGs,

ultrasounds. I want to

take off all my clothes

and eat macadamia nuts

off your belly.

 

Quite a week it’s been,

I wasn’t feeling so keen

until Katy came along,

bright-eyed presence,

and reminded me to have

reverence for the violin.

Blonde

I’ve never been so glad to see Kansas

as the day I’m driving through

Humboldt, Nebraska.

 

This is the place where they killed

Teena Brandon, because she looked

too much like a boy.

Wanted to be one, too.

 

She was Brandon, in the end, not Teena.

No one could rape it out of her, out of him,

although at least two men tried.

The sheriff laughed and let them go.

 

They came back and finished the job,

shot her at close range, then stabbed him,

to finish the job. Like they thought they were

killing two people, a two-gendered freak.

 

In the movie, “Boys Don’t Cry,”  they didn’t tell

how s/he always wanted hair

the color Willa Cather called

certain wheat fields in the sun.

 

Was it because blondes have more fun?

Or was the bleach a disguise, hoping he could

hide, from Lincoln to Falls City to Humboldt?

The house where he died sits off in the distance, mute.

High Tea

It’s got to be four o’clock somewhere,

time to be civilized, and not think about

spiders or big worms coming out of the wall.

No rhyme or reason, but maybe a scorpion

or a gargantuan tarantula along a road in

Arizona. Surely it is time to finally finish off

the shortbread from Christmas, the puffy

little macaroons, pistachio and raspberry,

with a cup of that tea from Canada, King

Cole. No thoughts of black widows or

brown recluse, just remember that blackberry

cobbler and rice pudding from the deli that

would now be waiting for a midnight snack

if it hadn’t been eaten already, at noon.

Europe, 2007

homage to T. S. Eliot’s “Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufock” and the following line: “In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.”

When finally you were seven, old enough to ride in

my car, in the two miles in took us to go to the

store, you looked around and said “There’s enough room

in here for my backpack, we could go to Kansas City,” the

lights in your eyes twinkling like the eyes of women

who sell fortunes to strangers on the street and come

home to twelve cats, three dogs, six fish, two turtles, and

a gerbil. “No,” I said. “Dear niece, we are authorized to go

to the store, no further,” but on and on for years, we kept talking

of Kansas City, of St Louis, and when you were eighteen, of

how we would go to London, and Florence, and Paris, to see Michelangelo.

Inside Out

These are the things we’ve never been permitted

to talk about: the bruises from Daddy, the scars

from the broken Sunday School slate. Whether

we were bad (which we were – tic tac toe on the pews),

whether our sisters were good (they slept in

the same room with him, so anything that

happened was mum, and made them proud,

at first). Later, after they realized, not all

fathers take such liberties, they were angry

with us. They would have taken the beatings,

any day, if we had taken the worst,

from the inside out.

Poetry Food

No McDonald’s wrappers, here.

Only quality sustenance will last through

twenty four hours of versifying.

Already, at hour six, we’ve been through

the four elements, Leonard Cohen,

mountains and Jesus, eternity and sand.

 

Already we’re repeating ourselves in every

stanza, but not attempting a villanelle, and

going back in time. That’s why they call it

a marathon. So I started with cantaloupe.

 

Then sugar snap peas and red, red radishes.

Yes, a radish is a radish is a radish. I can’t wait

to finish off the macaroons, Magruder’s finest.

I had two to test the flavors, raspberry and pistachio.

 

Cookies before noon, not a good idea. So I dip into

the chef salad, a strip or two of cheese, a cracker.

The fancy one with salmon I’ll save until the wee hours,

when only berries and ice cream will really hit the spot.

 

T.S. Eliot I’m not, but perhaps he once got a prompt

to write about cats, and more cats, and that was that.

Dunnegan Park

Once upon a time

there were black swans,

testosterone-laden geese,

and a white peacock.

It never went near the water,

but pecked for insects in the leaves

near the ranger’s house. Once,

I saw it fly up into a tree.

 

None of us knew the Dunnegan brothers

who loved this town’s children so much

they gave us swings sets in concrete,

and sliding boards, and picnic pavilions

for our family reunions. Even restrooms

fancier than we had ever seen, living out

highway 13, on a farm with no running water.

The Bolivar park was our idea of heaven.