My poems “The Seam,” “The Terms of Sorrow,” and “Rural Auction” are now online with Blue Lotus Review’s Winter 2010 issue. You can read them there or here:
The late summer beaches are vacant,
but the water is still warm
beneath the chill that I am breathing.
Drifting on my back
about this Northern tree-lined lake,
my mouth is all that breaks
all that holds me above
the murky floor.
I glide under shaking limbs.
Ears muffled, my eyes read the wind
in the swelling feet of waves,
and the trees, in tacit unison,
seem to send
the impulse of flight to leaves,
just as fleets of tropical fish
in zoo tanks know when
to flash obliquely away
from the spectators
who stand and stare.
Along this seam,
I merge with the currents.
Blue lips to the sky,
I am floating
somewhere in autumn.
The Terms of Sorrow
If our sorrow could be stored away
like a musty old cloak or shawl,
we’d lift it from our shoulders and put it
where the odor would not find us.
If sorrow could be brought out
merely for show,
we would display it as it served us
and then wrap it up like chinaware
and the silver we just polished.
If sorrow were a transient thing
trespassing like a twister or sin
through some small town,
we would close our eyes
and then open them slowly
when outside was as warm
as inside again.
If sorrow were not marbled
through our lives
and the places we have been,
we would not limp
when we try to walk away from it.
We would not endure it
like a broken-down old friend.
The driving cadence of the auctioneer penetrates the wind;
his voice cuts through the chatter
and the dust that swirls up in the air around him.
The farm wives and older daughters all bunch in
to examine the hodgepodge of house holdings on display.
They nudge one another and trade quick whispers,
jawbone to ear with their neighbors and cousins.
Their wrinkles broaden widely as they handle and gauge
the glassware and dishes and the many evening hours
gathered in cardboard boxes full of hand crochet.
Behind them, young farmers listen to their fathers
trading the local gossip and the news of the day.
Their oily hats and clay-red faces
are outcroppings of stone atop denim and plaid.
Over the afternoon, and the random buzz of flies,
their ears cock to hear the auctioneer’s call
as each one eyes the later-model plow
or the refurbished tractor he came there for.
In pastures across the county, the cattle graze.
The corn grows fatter on its own.
These are pieces in a chess game—
a test of toil and waiting— a match of wits
with nature on an earthen board.
Under the oaks, the old folks relax and sway
in well-worn rockers, not yet sold.
Their toothless faces have dropped their burdens,
and their watches lay stopped on their bed stands at home.
Their idle humming soothes them through the day,
unlike the gaggle of children who play and chase about
knitting their families and their futures
into a cloth that is familiar and whole,
except for the one kid who strays
to sit by the road and draw in the dirt
and count the passing cars that brake and stare
before they look up the road and drive away.