On Jutting Teeth

White rounded teeth jut from the ground,
rolling beyond the hill
and not making a sound.

Rows of carved teeth carry ever on,
winding all directions,
naming those that have gone.

And I see Major Thomas White,
quiet for five decades,
morning, noon, and all night.

All alone and with your stone friends,
whom did you love, Major,
whose world did you upend?

Is she still out there now, tonight,
dreaming the life denied
and holding you so tight?

Or have you now slipped and faded,
become just this cold stone,
signaling a love abated?

I will stand here and for you pray
that in your too short time
love never did betray.

On a Spring Afternoon

The big bee buzzing my office window,
flying his sorties in the mid-day light,
comes with the chatty brown squirrels
and birds swooping into my sight.

Mom’s fighting ants in her kitchen,
and neighbors are worried ’bout skeeters,
while the crocus blooms in small bursts
like yellow, white and purple heathers.

And I stretch my legs in front of me,
curling my toes and yawning wide,
fat and happy in the knowledge
to winter’s death I can say goodbye.

On My Father’s Grapevines

I want to run around that yard,
batting my hands against my father’s grapevines,
stomping through his garden,
my hands sticky with blackberries.

I want to see the bricked patio behind my room,
where I kicked and punched with glee
after the cheesy karate movie
we went to go see.

I want to stand in the spot where the bee stung,
and I want to sneak past the corner with the dead bird,
avoiding the hole where dad fell during kickball,
and we went running for mom.

And I don’t want to go next door, and
I don’t want to see the backyard with the beast,
the loud dog the bit me and gave me this scar.
I don’t need to go there.

And maybe Snowball the cat’s ghost still purrs,
stalking the backyard where I played ping pong,
and where I tossed a ball through a window,
and where I kept a turtle in the garage.

I know the yard is still there, and maybe
lots of other little boys have played there,
and maybe they’ve laughed and cried,
and shot arrows at their bratty little sister too.

I know it would seem so small to me now,
so miniature compared to the place in my mind,
but I still want to run around that yard,
my hands sticky with blackberries.


On a Small River Town

I was raised in a small river town,
the people knew me and knew the price of milk
and other things that mattered, like
work and family and love.

Shabby, shining parades, and church directories,
and picnics, and high school dances,
students of the month, and
work and family and love.

And we talked about other things, like money
and politics and gossip and entertainment,
but never above
work and family and love.

And that’s not how it really was,
there was violence, neglect, and pain,
and ignorance and vileness too —
backward bubbas were a common refrain.

But we were small and cozy and sort of friendly,
and so we remember what we want, a crooked line,
we deceive ourselves as keepers of what is pure
and what is wholesome and kind.

And I no longer know what is real and not,
or what matters to the great above,
but it all seems to revolve around
work and family and love.

On Knotted Knives of Lust and Lies

I pulled my truck into the savings and loan,
set the brake, turned the key, and cried,
cried for the love I could not have,
cried like a man alone.

I cried because I thought he would rescue me
from the loneliness of divorce,
but none of it was real to him,
his care was just a sport.

Both my absent loves cut to the marrow bone,
with knotted knives of lust and lies,
sitting in a bank parking lot
crying by myself, alone.

On My Orderly Soul

I fold my undershirts neatly into two piles
and wear them in order everyday.

I load the dishwasher with cups on the same side,
dishes and pots and pans juxtaposed below.

The shorts are packed in boxes this off season,
plaid and plain and cargo and linen and playful.

My ties wrap around pegs, hovering with their color kin,
locked in a staring contest with my belts of varying lengths.

And I wait for my prize,
the gold star I was long promised.

And I wait for it to be all right,
for the truth to be delivered.

And I wait for the secret to be told,
for the big reveal from above.

And I wait for the passion to erupt,
destroying my world and its cruel deceptions,
its lies and its deceits and its poverty,
and its crude black infections.

I pray for the light to crash down about me,
to obliterate my enemies and my sins,
to capture my orderly soul, and
gnaw its bones clean from within.

My dress shirts hang with collars in one direction,
by color coordinated, dark to light.

On Forking Lightning

Pulled under by debts and doubts,
reaching a middle life
with so much and so little to show,
and to not know if his words will ever fork lightning.

Forgotten tales weaved by sweet smiles,
stories of promise,
swimming past in cool, blue currents,
as his giant head bobbed to sleep slowly.

It was youth and folly, fully formed,
fleeing from the green open pastures,
flinging to the ashen streets,
with the buildings covered in mean dust and dreams arrested.

It was the astral projection, the star light
drumming about the dark,
punching through him, past him, rocketing through
a profound parade, a might, a power to behold.

And he danced, and he danced wildly,
in circles around he flailed,
battering the filthy walls as they closed in,
a neat shrinking box for his sin.

And finally it was Night that hovered over him,
in him,
only at peace at rest,
only asleep in his tiny black nest.

His dreams chewed him up and spat him about the room,
tumbling down, covered in the grime,
the time of ill winds and formless fears,
a rotten tomb.

And he was small and naked,
his giant head bobbing again and again,
recalling the old songs of beauty and light,
alone in the middle of the night.

On Dead End Delusions

It’s more than time that we part;
a black and consuming refrain,
a malignant corner of my heart.

We danced a dark, foul step,
an ever growing, ugly stain;
at twisting, you were cruelly adept.

You clutched and grabbed greedily,
shackling me in my own disdain,
from truth, me fleeing speedily.

No more plays, no more fancy tales,
no more escapes from the sane;
a conclusion there is time to tell.

The dark dream has reached its end,
no more happiness only to feign,
onto the business of a heart to mend.

Do not call, do not plead or pray,
I am deaf to your wrongs explained,
in this gross fiction I no longer stay.

Repeated over and over without end,
the false dream I truly maintained,
from an honest love it upends.

But no more, nevermore, evermore,
a final chill chorus for my bane,
a new light, I have, to love and explore.


On ‘Murica

I see you looting that store,
sneaking across that border,
speaking with a foreign tongue,
threatening me and my order.

I see you holding his hand,
confusing a he for a she.
Parading your lack of morals,
tolerating all but me.

I see you checking your mailbox,
walking fast for your check,
never lifting a finger,
leading this country into a wreck.

I see you coming for my guns,
my church and my family next,
you steal all that is good and Godly,
a don’t follow the sacred text.

I see you poor, dirty, and broken,
your eyes down, your hand out.
When will you get a clue, get a job,
and not laze about?

You don’t understand ‘Murica,
you’re not wanted here.
We’re white and better,
not dark or alien or queer.

You don’t understand ‘Murica,
we love only our own.
Equality and freedom,
for you we don’t condone.

You don’t understand ‘Murica,
we’re individual and free,
special and blessed,
look at me, me, me!

You don’t understand ‘Murica,
you’re not from around here,
you don’t look like me,
and I don’t want your kind near.

You don’t understand ‘Murica,
Heaven above protects us,
but, for you, we assume,
God doesn’t really fuss.

You don’t understand ‘Murica.

On Going Home

Two decades on, you pull me home,
quiet and still by the river,
patiently waiting for my return,
memories to deliver.

Spin around the cloverleaf,
climb down Devil’s backbone,
cruise the strip and park,
and see the savings and loan.

See the old schools and church,
graying, crumbling, fading away,
still tall and solid in your mind,
but nevermore that way.

You set out looking for more,
looking for fairness and love,
saying goodbye to what you knew,
saying goodbye to God above.

The marriage, the house, the job,
it’s all come true, all right here.
But at a cost only you can know,
letting go of things held dear.

I come back with the seasons,
rushing in with the bitter cold,
running to see what has changed,
running to see what has sold.

I’ve come home again, year after year,
looking for the town I cherished,
but the town that raised me
has all but perished.

The schools have all changed,
the old friends moved on,
the sunny beautiful spots in my mind,
grotesquely pawned.

A few bright lights remain,
stones solid and true.
Not for a lack of love or want,
but the familiar are now the few.

I pass through Elm and Letcher,
and Center and Churchill too.
Places I once rested my head,
now dreams will have to do.