Friday, July 30, 2010
When the Rain Came
Nothing else mattered.
We stopped staring at the TV,
lost our grip on the remote control.
Rain hit the roof with more crackle
than static, fell thicker than pixels
or peacock tails. Tree limbs bent
like so many weather vanes
twisting to line up with the wind.
We both stood and faced the picture
window where our landscape muted
from green to gray—the light driven out
of the sky by so much penetrating water.
Nothing could have been
more compelling, not the moon
breaking loose like a shock of rigging,
not the flotsam of sodden stars.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Faustus Visits the Ag Store
The herbicide boasted on the package
of its nondiscriminatory approach to killing.
The manufacturer named it, Kills All.
I picked the product up, drawn by
the image of a mushroom cloud balanced
like a balloon above a cartoon plant's head.
The thistle looked as if it might be trying
to talk to me, but having drawn a blank
it needed my purchase to complete its thought.
This was marketing at its finest,
devastation and a conversation
concentrated in an easy-to-use container.
I stopped a sales associate:
“I can’t find a price.”
He took the container from me
and examined the label. “64 ounces of death.
Death always requires your soul.”
“But does it kill bind weed?”
He scrutinized the label
like a monk assigned to illuminate a manuscript
without his reading glasses.
“I think it says it ‘kills everything’.”
“But bind weed?”
At the checkout I unbuttoned my shirt.
“I’m not sure physiologically where the soul is located,
but I am assured this stuff kills bind weed.”
The checkout woman laughed -- cackled, really --
then pointed her scanner gun at my chest.
“That’s a good one.”
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Living Wit Bears
Fastened to a registration booth barricading
the entrance to a state park, a metal sign read
“Living Wit Bears.” A missing letter
might have been dissolved by wind, rain,
sunlight exposure, or whited out
by a mischievous camper.
“How smart are bears?” I asked the attendant,
while filling out my vehicle license information form.
“I don’t know” the uniformed woman replied,
“I’ve never seen one.”
“But they’re in the area, aren’t they?”
“No idea” she replied, then flipped through a magazine
she’d been reading as I first approached.
I put my pen down rather noisily
and she glanced up again. “Why then” I asked,
“do you list instructions on this sign commanding
campers to use the specially designed bear-proof
trash receptacles?” She leaned over the counter,
so as to better see the metal sign I was tapping.
“No shit, I never noticed that” she replied.
Her meaty arms seemed to double in size
as they flattened against the counter’s edge.
I backed up a step. She continued to look at me
while her hands rolled the magazine into a
tight little baton. “Is there something else?”
she asked. I shrugged, trying to regain some stature
without giving in to a sudden urge to flee.
“No biggie” I said, “but this sign
seems to have suffered an H-ectomy.”
I smiled and pointed to the spot where
a letter was missing. She smiled back --
a malicious grin, really, that allowed me
to count her teeth. “Maybe too many campers
tapping that sign” she said, “in that particular
spot.” I nodded, as if her explanation made
perfect sense, turned in my forms, took my
little sticker, and got the H out of there.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Instructions for Counting Cows
Remember, calves can be invisible
tucked into the shadow
of their mother’s udders
or napping in the tall grass,
so it’s best to start after
the rancher splits the bales,
with all the animals lined up
like beads on an abacus.
Begin by counting tails,
not heads, since rear ends
serve as primitive metronomes.
Cows also tend to drift
like clouds as they return to
grazing, so don’t let whimsy
dictate the animals you see.
Friday, July 2, 2010
One In Ten Fireworks Is a Dud
I arrived long before the crowd
of 4th of July enthusiasts could
spread itself out over the prime
viewing real estate. After three
trips to the truck, I unloaded my
folding chair, blanket, picnic basket,
shade umbrella, cooler full of iced
beverages, and the spool of electric
fence wire, insulators, battery, and
stakes necessary to enclose my spot.
Instead of a single strand along the
top of the stakes, which is sufficient
for horses and cattle, I decided on
three separate bands -- top, middle,
and low, the lowest strand at shin
level in case any crawling infants
or small dogs invaded my space.
The sound of insects or butterflies
catching a few volts is almost
imperceptible, but humans tend to
yelp, more out of surprise than pain.
Stretched out on my blanket with my
eyes closed, I could hear people say
“Look at that!” or “I dare you” or
“Weirdo” -- that kind of running
commentary, but I felt secure,
unthreatened by the masses.
Then what I thought might be
birdsong turned out to be a voice
I recognized. “Bob?” it chirped.
I opened my eyes. “Well Marjorie,
yes, it’s me.” I sat up, took off
my sunglasses out of courtesy
and for a better look at this gorgeous
woman who often sunbathed
in the backyard adjacent to mine.
She approached the wire to give me
her usual hug. “Watch out” I shouted,
“you’ll be shocked.” Marjorie froze,
puzzled by my alarm. I turned off the
power, then stood to reach across
the top wire. We superficially embraced,
she standing on her tiptoes, still avoiding
the wire I’d turned off. “What is this,
some kind of prison camp?” she asked.
“No,” I laughed. “It’s more like a
panic room. Want to come in?”
I could see her bikini under the gauzy
shirt she wore, a large towel draped
over one arm. “Nah” she replied,
“That makes me a little nervous, and
besides, I want that big open piece of sky
right over there.” She turned and pointed.
“But if you want to grab your stuff
and join me, well, that would be real nice.”
She walked off, waving, looking real nice.
I watched her go, sat back down,
reconnected the battery, and reached out
to touch a wire with my bare finger.
“Ouch” I said aloud, then touched it
again and again, “Oooh...ahhh...yipes...”
and it was still hours before
the fireworks were scheduled to begin.