Friday, December 25, 2015

Weekly Worded

       The Wine Interviews

“Cabernet or Chardonnay?”
“You always told me the wine depended on the menu.”
“We’re not eating, we’re drinking.”
“Then both, by all means.”
“Okay, let’s start with the red.”
“You aren’t going to sniff the cork, are you?”
“It’s a twist top.”
“Then just pass the damn bottle.”
“Well now, we don’t have to behave like winos.”
“Excuse me. Please pass the damn bottle.”
“That’s better.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Deflating the Ego

What to do, I said to myself, about becoming
a somebody? What to think, how to speak,

where to be so the best possible moment
wants to take me along. And then I whisper,

as if to an anybody, who cares what you think?
You are not the hub of a wheel, or even a pulley

that lifts great ideas out of the dirt. You are
dimmer than an anybody, an impersonation

waiting to fall like a shadow against a wall.
So I walked, I don’t know where, and thought

why do I try, when will I learn, how does
a yearning this size ever get off the ground?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Sunset Feedlot

My neighbor hauls four more calves
home from the livestock auction this December.
Their faces are fresh as snow.

He keeps no shelter on his stark seven acres
except for the shack where he sleeps
and the shed that protects the hay.

Twice a day he carts out six bales,
spreads them on the trampled ground.
His cattle surround him

but not close enough to be struck
by the rod he uses for support.
It’s time to eat.

I see the animals’ excitement,
keeping their distance,
letting him unload and leave.

He must be their god
though he is no god to me.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Weekly Worded

        The Weekend Novelist

On the drive home
the schoolteacher plans
what happens next.

He stopped believing in lessons
so he’s writing a novel
in a small apartment near the railroad tracks.

Freight trains disrupt every chapter.
He suspects they’ll find their way
into the ending, though he’s not there yet.

A year ago when he started
he thought the story so full of promise.
Now it’s just work,

the drudgery of a factory
stamping out an assembly of words.
He knows there’s no resolution

more perfect than death
yet he wants something else.
The conflict has shifted

from the page to the long drive home.
Another Friday night.
He hopes for another chapter

and really, that’s all he believes in,
a few more words
and maybe a little luck.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Black Friday

    “Hello, I’d like to report a theft.”
     
    “Go ahead, what was stolen.”
     
    “My trash.”
     
    “Someone took off with your garbage can?”
     
    “No, just the trash inside it.”
     
    “Did your trash contain anything valuable?”
     
    “Not really, it smelled like my usual trash.”
     
    “Where was it when it was taken?”
     
    “Out by the curb.”
     
    “Is it possible your sanitation workers picked it up?”
     
    “What day is this?”
     
    “Friday.”
     
    “Well, I’ll be!”
     
    “What day do they usually pick up your garbage?”
     
    “On Fridays.”
    “Then I doubt your trash was stolen.”
    “I thought this was Thursday.”
    “No, it’s Friday.”
    “Thanks for clearing that up.”
    “You’re welcome. Is there anything else?”
    “Well, one other thing disappeared.”
    “Go ahead, what was that?”
    “Thursday.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

Weekly Worded

       Grandmother Said

If you want to know how much
any of us will be missed, stick your hand
into a bucket of water, then pull it out.
The hole that’s left, that’s how much.


I wondered how water could prove anything.
She was on her knees scrubbing the floor,
an arc of suds in front of her like the smile of a ghost.
As she rinsed her rag I held my breath,

afraid I'd be left behind.
Then the water splashed,
a few bubbles clung to her elbow
and fifty years later I still miss her.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Sweeping the Porch

All this might have been caught on one horn
of a crescent moon for half the night
before it slipped and fell to earth.

Crumpled on the grass, it resembles
those stretches of white Caribbean beaches
where lovers walk barefoot along the surf

except much colder, and I haven’t yet
lit the furnace or carried my first load
of firewood to stack beside the hearth.

The warmth of my bed is all I remember
as I glance back toward the house, thinking
how carelessly this new season has begun.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Avant-garde

Clich├ęs have been said before
so that saying them again
in a less predictable way
makes the lips tingle.
Like trying to find a needle
in a chicken salad sandwich,
or being stuck between
a bowl of oatmeal and a tank
in Tiananmen Square.

It’s just awkward,
like trying to fit a square dance
into a round of boxing.

The tongue is not a lathe
turning on the perfect phrase,
shaping the bannister to heaven.
Rather, it is easier to choose
the old expression than it is
for a politician to squeeze
through the eye of a potato.
Which means it might be
fun to see one try.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Weekly Worded

          Bus Stop

Seven o’clock.
Bus go
fifty feet or so.
Bus stop.
Dogs bark.
Bus go,
speed low.
Take turn.
Bus stop.
Mom and tot.
Bus go.
Lights flash.
Can’t pass.
Bus stop.
Children sit.
Bus go.
Traffic flow.
Bus stop.
Bus wait.
Kid late.
Bus go.
Hand waves.
Rail track.
Bus stop.
Train? No.
Bus go.
Finally see
yellow sign.
School zone:
Slow.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Weekly Worded



                                               
       An Inch of Rain

It doesn’t sound like much, an inch
being of so little consequence
it occupies the space
between a set of knuckles
but when you realize rain comes down 
like a sheet of plastic an inch thick
across miles of undulating farmland, 
conforming to its rises and falls,
saturating the trees, leaves and limbs, 
clinging to the surface of rivers 
for an instant before being sucked down 
into the convection of water tables and aquifers, 
then a mere inch swells to such proportions
it forces the mind to the surface of simple thought 
like an ocean buoy, marking the way to safety.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Weekly Worded

   
      Autumn Steep

Down is not where I planned to go
on a Saturday afternoon, with an ominous
thunder head boiling over the Blue Mountains.
The sign, after all, marked the trailhead
as Aspen Flats. I had imagined a ride
along a hard-packed dirt path,
yellow aspen leaves falling like gold coins.

I got it all wrong. The trail
fell away steeper than the earth’s curve,
cliff-like, taking its nosebleed dive over
rocks that shook my world.
I stayed balanced like a high wire act
performing to an empty tent.
Backcountry deaths and disappearances
get spotted like mountain storms -- from a distance.

Who would have guessed how much terror
etches itself like petroglyphs into a surface
cold as stone? I was drawn like water
to its basest level, and felt sure,
even if hell bound, I would get there.
I had no choice. Bedrock, wherever found,
would be a place I could not have imagined.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Weekly Worded

       The Hole Truth

The discomfort made me wince
until the otoscope made its final curve,
bathing my eardrum in light.
“Now do you see the hole?” my doctor asked.
I wasn’t sure what I saw,
having never toured that grotto before,
my tunnel of wax, the tiny workshop
where a hammer, anvil, and stirrup 
resonate with meaning.
Was it the choir invisible
buzzing in my ear?
A gnat with operatic wings?
This view of my inner self prodded me
to ask if my soul was back there too,
gleaming like a stainless steel sink.
Or if imagination’s bulb had been
left burning in the attic.
But no, I saw the breach -- just one
of my imperfections.
If the doctor probed deeper
we’d be standing together on an abyss
where he could shout all day
and never expect an answer.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Lunar Pranks

In the land of the twisted juniper
the moon still tugs, tethered to its orbit,
its phases like beads on an abacus
counting luminous days.

How silvered the sage turns, as if
sheathed in ice, the dry tide rippling
desert sand that for centuries
shifts like the gauze of a curtain,

never frightening the old ones
so enamored of predictable change
until an eclipsed moon like a drop
of blood rises over their ancestors' graves.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Overcast

The light this morning glowers
like a galvanized pail left hanging
on a bent nail just inside the barn door.
As the door opens the hinges creak

and the pail shimmies a little,
not enough to slip off the nail
and fall clanging to the floor,
but enough so the handle slides

along the nail’s length and stops
at that slight lip no thicker than
a breath where the hammer struck.
That’s how the sun was caught

as I started this day, in a swirl
of thick gray clouds waiting
to be carried across the barn
toward the other horizon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Weekly Worded

Interview With a Comedian

“They say comedians are sad people beneath the surface. Is that true?”
“Sadly, no.”
“Do you realize you repeated the word ‘sad’ in your reply?”
“Happily, yes.”
“Would you have been happier if I’d said comedians are unhappy people?”
“I’d have been less troubled.”
“Then you would agree, that comedians are troubled people?”
“If by troubled you mean sad, then no.”
“Let’s start again. Is the right word important to a comedian?”
“The correct word.”
“Ah, another bad word choice, I apologize.”
“Poor word choice.”
“Are all comedians such sticklers when it comes to what other people say?”
“I listen to people like you, then imagine them as children.”
“People like me? Have I said something funny?”
“That first question was hilarious!”
“But it was a serious question.”
“That’s what made me chuckle.”
“Maybe I should have asked if comedians are simply mean people.”
“Some of them, but it’s not simple.”
“I’m afraid we’re running out of time. Is there anything you’d like to say before we go?”
“Why did the children cross the playground?”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”
“To get to the other slide.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Weekly Worded

         The Faithless

The horse corralled at my neighbor's
whinnies much of the night, a litany
laced with dissatisfaction and fear.

The horse goes unheeded.
Schooled in its beauty, we are
convinced the animal needs to be trained.

Through the fence the horse studies
our religion of harness, saddle, and hasp,
of steel post, buckle, and bit.

It believes by instinct, by the moon
that waxes and foals, and the sun
as it rises to sing to the pasture.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Weeky Worded

         Standing at Tolkien's Grave
             3 January 1892 - 2 September 1973

He's not buried in middle-earth,
but a mere six feet below
the ground where I’m standing,
his bones shed of that great imagination
for creating worlds, worn thin

as a thread-bare professor's robe
that slipped from his shoulders,
a puddle of fabric at his feet
shaped like the shadow
he chased his whole life. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Weekly Worded

                         The Spiders Never Sleep

                                       Waiting, yes,
                                   all spiders spend
                           considerable time waiting,
                    a posture easily mistaken for sleep.
           And yes, they release from inside themselves
        an intricate pattern we call a web, a weaving that
            reveals both life and art inextricably twined.
              The silver thread unraveling from within
                     originates in the deepest spirit, and
                       the pattern establishes a medium
                             for interpreting the world.
                               Oh yes, a spider knows
                                      as much as we
                                        know about
                                         expressing
                                           an inner
                                               self.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Weekly Worded


       High School Essay

She wrote, Who doesn’t take there wedding vowels very serious?
and I suspect I O U might be the words

she eventually mistakes for love.
If infidelity was her point

there’s a smudge of truth
between her pages,

that youth is more aroused
by passion than prose.

Sex and marriage, broken vowels,
the stuff of Shakespeare’s dreams.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Imperfect Vision

I’m using big letters
because the world is going blind.
Every decade weaves
another cataract, one more
veil to see beyond, and the figures
lumbering across my field
only remind me
of shadows I used to recognize.
I’m composing with colossal characters
because I’m going blind
and my time is coming
to a close, my years
on this planet, seeing and not
seeing, picking up, holding,
and letting go.
I’m writing a massive missive
because one day
you will be reading this
and what I mean will be
reduced by time.
I’m writing
and the size of these words 

helps me notice
what I haven’t had time to say.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Weekly Worded

         
      
        For Those Who Live In Old Trailers

You know how it goes,
the bald tires lugged up a ladder,
arranged like a tray

of donuts in the sun,
their collective weight
so full of expectations

finally laid to rest.
One big black constellation
of holes staring up

at a universe still spinning.
It’s all because wind
gets under the tin

and sounds like theatrical thunder,
a shimmy that ripples
along the tapered hallway

as if someone is shouting
into an old-fashioned ear trumpet,
“The sky is falling!”

and the half-deaf man
at the opposite end
nods yes, it most certainly is.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Fieldwork

Each time my neighbor cuts his field
the summer is that much shorter,
and as he gathers and stacks the bales
it calls to mind how much it takes

to feed the winter. It’s not so bad
living where I do, hope persistently rising
from twenty acres of stubble, my lungs
filled with the fragrance of his labor.

At haying time his combine clicks
like the beads on an abacus
back and forth against the horizon.
I am counting the days.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Weekly Worded

         The Other One

My left hand looks older,
first time I've noticed this century.
Naturally, I knew it would age,

those fingers opening and closing
like a chorus line, providing
a lifetime of stimulation.

So what did I expect?
Helping out, holding on
while the right one labors for both.

I'm surprised how the veins
have thickened, how the skin
puckers like tissue paper.

Clenched or unclenched,
it does mostly what it's told.
There, it reached

to touch my face.
See how it makes amends?
I forgive you, I forgive you.

Go wrestle with your brother
while I try to figure out
where you left the aspirin.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Almost Human

Little known, the man comes home
to where he wasn’t missed,
unlocks his door, slips off his shoes,
imagines being kissed.

He waits a cautious moment,
inhales the stale air,
as if to little known, the man
could sense he wasn’t there.

He boils a cup of coffee,
he carves a slice of meat.
He says a little prayer
to always there, his feet.

He’ll watch a little football
before he goes to bed,
then hike the hinterland of his dreams
where little’s ever said.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekly Worded

       Death Song

I can not say when it will be,
though I know it’s out there
circling like a hawk on a thermal.

All the predictable catastrophes
lined up like songbirds on a wire,
lulling me with their mellifluous warble

but the one I’m waiting for
promises to be nothing I could imagine,
a cataclysmic massage

that starts at the back of the neck,
works it way into a pocket
of my brain where all the lightning

I’ve ever seen collects in a tracery
of veins so charged with brilliance
the illumination opens all of me --

not just my eyes -- and what I see
for a brief moment
tempers the tip of eternity.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Weekly Worded

       An Older Truth

I cut the plum tree down today.
No lesson here. No lie.
I cut the plum tree down today
because it died.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Time Was

I could sleep on the ground,
a sheet of plastic my only protection
against the damp earth.

If it rained, I tugged my blanket
over my head and dreamt
a full moon into being,

fireflies like falling stars
penetrating the deep woods
until they covered me

and I drifted to the Milky Way,
so far away from myself
only sunlight could recapture my body.

Time was the animals approached
while I slept and counted my toes.
I could walk ten miles

on my first wind,
hit a fence post every time
with a perfect stone.

These days at my comfortable desk
my fingers shadow that life.
Time was I had no time for remembering.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekly Worded

                                            (watercolor 7"x 10") P. Smith
    
     Stocking the Universe

The sky turns a brighter gray, clouds
slip like light from under a closed door.
In less than an hour the day will be spent.

All the puddles and wet leaves
will turn silver if the moon breaks through.
I am hoping for moonlight.

I am lugging the planets in plastic grocery sacks
up a long flight of stairs.
At the top a lock must be undone,

a knob twisted, a switch
toggled by a clever elbow.
So much I carry counterbalanced

by the so much I need.
In sorting it all away, a scoop of ice cream
cradled in a freezer-burned bowl

skids to the back of the bin.
Covered with hoarfrost, it shimmers

like haze off a distant star.



Friday, June 12, 2015

Weekly Worded


       The Road to Shonto

A swale of soft red sand
undulates like a snake
between outcroppings of coal
chattering against the chassis
of my truck as I checkerboard
across the Navajo nation.

It's raining and I’m sluicing
on the surface of a semi-fluid sea bed.
When the rain stops mud coats
the sides of my pickup like paint.
Red paint. Red earth.
And still no Shonto.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Weekly Worded

       Allure

I’m attracted to the flash, the color
glittering as if the stars have fallen to earth.
I’m attracted to the silver
shining wet like mercury spilled
from a broken thermometer.
All that dangle turning heads,
and I’m hooked before she ever gets out the door.
I’m attracted to any movement,
how the air drips as it undulates,
any twist, tug, like instinct itself
intent on getting away.
I’m attracted to the tiny swivel
that keeps it all aligned,
the way three barbs draw the eye
even where I know there’s danger.
I’m attracted to the narrow thread
that originates from someplace else, the line
attached to every part of me
like a marionette
performing at safe distance.
And I’m aware, of course, how all this shimmer
begins with a stab of pain, a tiny spur
piercing the skin that tugs
and tears and swells for years
beyond the instant I’m first attracted.
The way I dance, always inspired
by the way she dances.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Still Waiting

  “Your opinion is valuable, please wait for the next available operator.”
     ...Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah.  Some call me the gangster of...
  “Your opinion is valuable, please wait for the next available operator.”  
     ...call me Maurice, ‘cause I speak of the pompitus of love...

  “Thank you for waiting. My name is Maurice, how may I assist you?”
  “Maurice? Really? I can’t believe it’s finally you.”
  “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
  “It’s me, Lovey-Dovey, your biggest fan since 1973.”
  “That’s impossible, I’ve only worked here for six months.”
  “Ah, you’re too modest.”
  “Is there something I can help you with?”
  “Yeah, what exactly is a pompitus of love?”
  “I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”
  “In the song, right before you start going on about my peaches.”
  “Your peaches?”
  “Oh, don’t pretend you haven’t noticed them.”
  “I apologize if I’ve given you the wrong impression about our services here at Hyper-Tech International.”
  “You’re still doin’ me wrong.”
  “I’m sorry, is this a hardware or software problem?”
  “It depends how badly you want to shake my tree.”   
  “I do have other customers waiting.”
  “Other fans?”

  “Thank you for calling Hyper-Tech International.  All our operators are currently helping other customers, but your opinion is valuable, please wait for the next available
operator.”

    ...You're the cutest thing I ever did see...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Weekly Worded

       Witching

is the process of searching for and locating
the lost, holding a twig
that dips and twitches as it points
to its mysterious pleasure.
And I’ll admit, I’ve tried.
Picked up a forked stick,
moved slowly about the yard,
but all I found was the root of a tree
where the stick probably came from.
I suspected if I kept it up
I’d find my own grave
so I threw the stick into the bushes
and went about my life in the usual way,
misplacing things and finding them again
when I wasn’t paying attention.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Lost and Found

     A young woman ran into the convenience store while I was buying coffee shouting,
“Help, someone has stolen my identity.” I put the cup down on the counter and turned
to her.
  “There, there,” I said, “we’ll get to the bottom of this. What’s your name?”
  “I don’t know,” she sobbed.
  “It’s probably inside your purse.”
She appeared shocked, as if she hadn’t realized she was carrying a purse.
  “My purse?”
  “You did enter the store with it.”
  “I can’t remember if I carry a purse.”
  “Well, the presence of one on your arm leads me to believe you do carry one.”
  “Oh, I see.  That’s good thinking.”
  “Why don’t you hand the purse to me and I’ll look inside.”
So she passed the purse to me. I opened it and emptied its contents on to the counter.
  “My my, by the looks of all the stuff in here, I’d definitely say you’re a woman.”
  “Do you really think so?”
  “I’m certain of it. So far, we know you are a woman who carries a purse. We’re getting somewhere.”
  “Oh, I’m so excited, please go on.”
I found her wallet and examined her driver’s license.
  “Do you know anyone named Heidi?”
  “The name sounds familiar.”
I held the picture on the license up to her like a mirror.
  “How about now?”
  “Is it me?”
  “Yes, Heidi, it’s you, a perfect match.”
  “My name’s Heidi, and I’m a woman, and I carry a purse?”
  “Exactly. And this BMW ignition key suggests you drive an expensive car like the one parked right out there beside the gas pump.”
   She looked out the window toward the car.
  “Is that my car?”
  “If this key starts it, I’d say the chances are good.”
  “Oh, you must be the smartest man in the world.”
She grabbed her purse, pushed everything on the counter back into it, and held the key up in the air like an Olympic torch. 
  “I have my entire life left to discover, I don’t know what I would have done without you!”
She kissed me on the cheek and rushed out of the store. The clerk behind the counter was smiling. 
  “I think she’ll be all right,” I told him.
  “That’s nice. You gonna pay for her gas too?”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Weekly Worded

      What the Trees Remember

Slatted light leans against the barn;
the wood creaks.
Timbers and trusses warped to shape
its spine remember
a day when rain came
to soothe the heat away.
Dusk inhabits the loft,
odors rising out of the dust
while a herd of wary animals
gather at the periphery
like a rough breeze,
before taking the high ground so suddenly
they startle the trees.
Such an insistence of hooves
pounding,
followed by nothing else
except the wind,
the sun,
the stars,
all of it under
the enormous weight of the sky.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Frayed

Grandmother hid mothballs upstairs.
I first found them near the bottom
of a steamer trunk, like eggs in a nest
of yellow letters.  Then I found more
at the back of dark drawers filled
with worn lace and linen.  Strange orbs
glistening like eyes brimming with tears. 
I didn’t know why she hid them. 
Either they were precious jewels
or contraband.  How could reticence
be so white, be pushed away so deeply. 
Moths must feed on dust,
subsist on heat and light.
When we visited, my fear filled
the little room upstairs where we slept.
She lived below, her teeth left overnight
in a red glass beside the sink.
The tread, she said, was too steep.
At bedtime I climbed carefully
so the moths wouldn’t hear me coming,
feet where the boards wouldn’t squeak.
From bed I surveyed the kitchen below
through an open heating vent
set like a TV screen in the floor,
listening to women’s voices
late into the night.
I was the only man in the house
though at the time I didn’t know
what that meant, why
they expected more out of me.
When mother finally came to bed
I was sound asleep.  She managed
those stairs so quietly I never heard
her coming.  Her blankets twisted around her
like a cocoon, so she stayed invisible to me.
I asked Grandmother one morning
while I spooned my shredded wheat
if moths ate skin.
She said she didn’t think so,
then put her teeth in.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Weekly Worded

       What the Dead Say

People say, after you’re dead
you don’t care about the details
that piled up while you were living
but I wonder how they know,

how anyone can be so certain
that worry turns off its light
and slams the door. 
And I wonder if by saying

the dead don’t care
the living reveal how much
they do care but wish they didn’t.
What if after death all we do is care,

care that while alive we didn’t care
enough, that we spent our anxiety
on trivial news and gossip.
If the dead ever stop caring

then there’s no hope for the living.
Leave your house unlocked,
your dog unleashed,
your heart open to happenstance.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Board

    A man drove to the lumberyard to return a board.  He had to stop at the gate to check in with the gatekeeper. 
    “The board in the back of the truck, I want to return it” the man said. 
    The gatekeeper sighed.  He knew what kind of day it was going to be. 
    “Why do you want to return the board?” the gatekeeper asked.
    “Do I need a reason?” the man replied. 
    The challenge hovered in the air between them.  
    “Well, yes,” the gatekeeper said,  “At least I’d like to know if the board was somehow unsatisfactory, and if so, how it failed to meet whatever demands you place on your boards.”    
    “I’m not excited by this board anymore,” the man said. 
    “Were you excited by it when you left the lumberyard yesterday?” the gatekeeper inquired.
    “Yes, very excited!” the man replied.  “In fact, I was willing to pay twice the price
that I did pay for any board like the one in the back of my truck.” 
    Anyone who might have been close enough to overhear the conversation at the check-in gate would have heard the excitement in the customer’s voice.   It was genuine.  Clearly, he wasn’t lying about the excitement. 
    “Did something happen to the board between then and now?” the gatekeeper asked. 
    “I unloaded it” said the man, “and put it straight into the garage when I got home, but this morning it just wasn’t the same board.” 
    “Then what do you think happened to it?” the gatekeeper wanted to know. 
    “I don’t know.” 
    A brief pause filled the space between them. 
    The gatekeeper glanced down at his clipboard, not really looking for anything in particular, partly hoping when he looked back up the man would have driven away.  He looked back up.      
    “Do you think a different board just like the one in the back of your truck will bring the excitement back?” the gatekeeper proposed. 
    “It might.” 
    “Alright, drive all the way to the end of the yard and park on the left.  Somebody will be there to help you exchange the board.” 
    The man nodded and put his truck into gear.  He drove away from the gate very slowly but halfway through the yard the gatekeeper thought he heard a burst of acceleration.  It could have been the forklift starting up.  Who knows.     
    It was a graveyard of lumber the gatekeeper had to deal with five days a week, and it had lost all of its excitement years ago.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Worded

        Planetary Abacus
            http://www.wisdomportal.com/PlanetaryAlignment.html

At dusk I step outside to see planets
lined up above the western horizon.
In my head I add my years to the thirty-eight
it will take before they’ll be clustered
like this once more.

I spot the first at the edge of its orbit
struggling against gravity. 
Then another a little above the first
where anyone who knows the magnitude
of love could have predicted it would go.

The largest looks no bigger
than any other and despite the likelihood
I may never stand here
counting planets in the north-
northwest sky again,

I see the one that against all odds
wobbled but continued spinning.
Naked eye astronomy this crisp
April evening, trying to put my finger on
what adds up to a life.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Weekly Worded

                                   Tapestry by P. Smith
       Persephone Moves On

Had I noticed her — that goddess
who walks the earth
with flowers circling her head,

Miracle Grow oozing like pheromones —
maybe I’d have called after her,
urged her to slow down,

or, better yet, stared deep
into the thaw of her pond-like eyes
and asked if she would perhaps

show me around the garden,
introduce me to her friends,
commit in a primal way to one of those

on-and-off again type relationships
so calculated to attract both
the birds and the bees.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Weekly Worded


        Portrait in Feather

Still standing on dinosaur legs,
    staring across shallow water,
        the crane does not notice

its own reflection wavering
    like an ancient constellation
        transposed on a liquid sky.

Its long neck straightens then
    suddenly crooks, becoming
        the handle of a walking cane.
       
The bird steps forward, eye bent
    on an approachable shadow
        at the bottom of this murky universe.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Weekly Worded

          Company
   (for Terry Pratchett)
              --April 28, 1948-March 12, 2015

As you can see
I am occupied with Death,
so there’s no time left
to answer you with a novel.

When I first arrived
in the world
I thought there would be
more time;

I was mistaken;
so are we all.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Illumination

The eyes are tiny planets
orbiting within a galaxy of bone.
They reflect light like the moon,
sending back what can’t be absorbed.

Or the eyes are aliens
gathering information,
disseminating it to undisclosed locations
where ideas are born.

They see more than we ever say,
two monks in separate caves translating
the ancient language of light
into the book of experience.

When we close our eyes
the world dissolves,
all the raw material of dreams
fabricating an elaborate theology.

Our beliefs slip in through the ears
like a draft under the door,
like a candle flickering in a dark room
while the blizzard outside rages.

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.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Shameless

Page 178 of Exotic Mushrooms
serves up Plate 146, and on this plate
rests Phallus impudicus,
a steamy sprout of a mushroom
that looks like you understand
more Latin than you thought.
Plate 146 also stipulates, Not Edible,
a warning included for the soft-headed,
those who demand everything spelled out.
I tried penciling my own words
once in the third grade
but a stiff ruler wielded by Sister Gabriel
whacked my knuckles—the nun
who guarded the pure, white page,
archangel at the gates of desire.
By fifth grade our textbooks contained
not only hastily written words
but sketches too, and some of them
surprising for their anatomical correctness.
Fifth graders knew so much more
than exams could ever assess,
but opening our books back then
we had no way to understand character
or the dark soil from which
it so suddenly appeared.




Friday, January 2, 2015

Weekly Worded

         Till the Cows Come Home

My neighbor across the road
doesn’t live in the house he’s building. 
He has hammered a nail here, stuck
a shingle up there, worked at such a pace
the neighborhood judges he must be
strapped for cash.  After fifteen years
watching his effort snail along,
we have given up believing
he’ll ever move in, that the interior
will ever manifest itself as a home. 

Once I suggested it’s an avant-garde barn
for his cows disguised as a house,
that the man is an artistic genius
whose work will only be recognized
after he’s dead.  The lady next door
laughed so hard coffee squirted
from her nose.  She said it hurt enough
to forswear ever talking to me again. 
The neighbor on my other side
thinks it’s a spec house to sell
when the real estate market peaks again. 
Makes sense, I said, a temple
to Wall Street, a tithe to the future. 

But what I really suspect
(though I’ve told this to no one
except you) is since his wife disappeared
he metamorphoses into Penelope
each night and deconstructs half
of what he manages to complete. 
His cows are privy to his patience,
how it ruminates, how it waits.