Friday, February 27, 2015

Weekly Worded

        From the Top

At the bottom of a cardboard box, pressed
by the weight of a Random House
dictionary, an electric toaster
oven, a Hoover portable vacuum
so full of dust the motor burned up,
an old softball, some greasy gimmie hats,
an incomplete set of melmac plates and cups,
a salt shaker, one of those holiday
hand towels too corny to ever use,
a miniature plastic pony with a
missing tail, two child-sized muddy yellow
rain boots, an electric hair curler,
and a pair of corduroy pants spattered
with blue paint, rests a Hank Williams cassette. 
It is a big box, so it takes a while
to get to the bottom. The tape is cued
somewhere in the middle of a sad song
about feeling lonesome; Hank just started
singing the chorus when the tape was stopped. 
Someone couldn’t take it.  Or the day turned cheerful
and the listener did not feel like hearing
about sadness.  Maybe the phone rang.  Maybe
someone knocked at the door.  For whatever
reason—one we will never know—Hank could
not complete his song, his recorded mouth
stuck open at the bottom of this box
donated to a local thrift store. 
Say what you like about his music, Hank
had apparently said all he was permitted
to say about his singular version
of sadness.  Nobody is listening. 
Half a dozen additional boxes
and a mound of stuffed plastic bags 
need to be opened.  The volunteer at
the sorting table is too busy to cry.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekly Worded

       Old World Elegance

   The photo in the magazine glowed with the kind of luxury reserved for families of wealth, a financial torch passed down for generations with nobody getting burned, so I made my reservation, two nights, and asked if they offered an AARP discount. 
   The voice at the other end of the line had a distinct British accent and he asked me to repeat my request. 
  “AARP discount” I repeated. 
   He said he’d never heard of such a thing, that it sounded a bit guttural for their hotel, and that maybe I’d prefer one of those new hotel chains with refrigerators and microwaves in every room. 
  “No, I’ll stick with you” I said and he said “Very well.” 
   He could have said “Very good” but his language – a sign of breeding – assured me I had made the right choice. 
   When I arrived no uniformed valet greeted me, which seemed odd.  I parked the car and walked into the lobby.  The check-in desk wasn’t really a desk, but an old three drawer dresser beside a wooden stool. 
  “Very antiquey” I said to the receptionist. 
  “Pardon me?” she said. 
  “I was just commenting on the old world elegance of your furnishings.” 
   She glanced down, shoved a sock back into its drawer. 
  “I beg your pardon” she said, a twinge of embarrassment flushed in her cheeks.  “Do you have any luggage?”. 
  “I left it in the car” I said. 
   She reached into another drawer and retrieved an oak paddle which she slammed against the dresser.  Immediately a little girl clad in rags emerged from behind a curtained doorway where it appeared she’d been sleeping. 
  “Get the gentleman’s bags!” the receptionist shouted, as she swatted the girl’s backside with the board. 
  “No, really, I’ll carry them myself.  They’re actually quite heavy” I said.
   The little girl glanced back toward her keeper like one of those orphans you see in an illustrated Dickens novel. 
   “Very well” the woman said, and the urchin disappeared behind the curtain. 
   I climbed the stairs to the fourth floor, toting my suitcases.  A sign on the elevator read “Out of order” and the creaking stairs reminded me of a Bronte novel, though I can’t say which one, those sisters arranged in my mind like identical hotel room doors. 
   I located 432 at the end of the hall and as I reached for my key somebody inside the room coughed.  I knocked. 
   “I’m sorry” I said, “I thought this room was mine.” 
   The same little girl pulled the door wide and ushered me through with a gesture.  I surveyed the room with a sweeping glance while she went back to sweeping the floor.  A wooden palate in the corner with fresh straw spread across it, a bucket turned upside down beside a bigger bucket with a lid, like a crude unsteady table, and a pitcher of water. 
   I had stepped into another century and my luggage standing in the hall looked so out of place I decided to leave it.  I closed the door.  A stench from the street came up through an open window. 
  If I could survive for two days without festering boils and a fever I’d have to consider this little getaway one of my most memorable.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Chekhov Visits the High School

As students take their seats, Russia
looms gloomy and cold.  Here it is a warm
fluorescent evening. The hills where Chekhov
grew up stay gray as a schoolteacher’s slate.
Nobody can see the snow falling unless
they imagine chalk dust five feet deep.
The urge to talk about losing a loved one
falls to nobody else but me, who’ll be
speaking for Chekhov.  I start to say
something about sorrow but the flutter
of textbooks and a shuffling of feet
make me look up at the many young
faces arranged as a study in grief.  I say,
Turn to page twenty-one, and a shiver
sweeps through a dark grove of trees.  I ask,
How many have ever suffered great loss
and Anton at the back of the room
raises his hand, clueless that his life
had ever been assigned as homework.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekly Worded

         A Brief History
       
The universe empties through a hole
in the back of my head.
I can’t see it disappear,
don’t feel it like a draft under the door
but I know that’s where it goes,
sure as potatoes sprout eyes in the dark,
sure as the figures from my dreams
appear like glyphs on the walls
of my calcified skull.

In the imaginary direction of time
I am always starting over
and yet I have always been
like a particle of energy
drawn toward an event horizon,
a black hole
elongated like spaghetti by mathematics
then inexplicably let go.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Weekly Worded

                 Photo by CJ Aronson     daydream.com

       Remembering Where We Live

I have returned to this house so often
I forget it’s not where I live,
just where I hide
with the lights turned off.

I sweep new snow off the porch
but remember it falling
so thick in the woods
the bare trees shivered white.

Animal tracks like a dotted line
disappear into the bushes
and I remember seeking shelter
in the company of living things

so different from me
all I could do was sit quietly.
From the deep pocket of this moment
I broadcast a handful of stars

that settle into their predictable niches.
Old friends, old light.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Tourist as Artist

"It is only by selection, by elimination, and by emphasis
that we get to the real meaning of things." --Georgia O’Keeffe


On the road beyond Chama
I see where her vision lingered,
a stone easel in a dry wash,
her brush an enchantment of bristles
wielded like the cheatgrass and sage.
What I don't see are her flowers
on steroids, or animal skulls
meditating in the calcified sun.
Then a streak of blue that is not sky
passes me on a dangerous curve
as the highway descends
through layers of pink and white canyon.
And now the moon's left hanging,
dimmed by the morning sun
like a headlight knocked out of alignment.
There's a recklessness in this landscape
I can't explain, a Phoenix of rock
on the horizon risen from its talus remains.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Weekly Worded

 
       The Regular

No curiosity about the special.  It’s Monday.
He knows meatloaf begins his days
just as pork chops define Wednesdays,
and chopped sirloin rounds off the week.
He’s had the special so often it’s not special,

but farmers and ranchers depend on him,
and so he chews the fat of the less fortunate
for the sake of his countrymen.
The waitress offers no menu—she knows
what he wants, though lately when he sits down

he wonders if in the beginning he had a choice.
Why this particular stool, this coffee cup,
the fork with the crooked tine? 
The seat beside him usually stays empty
but he likes the elbow room. 

When the waitress says his name his teeth click
and he smiles like a florescent light. 
When the cook salutes from the grill radio static
seasons the air like the sizzle of hot grease. 
That old song, these habits, this life.