Working at the Bottom

Paint shed

The children played

On the swings.

His granddaughter sat

In the sandbox.

He stared down the bank

At the river

And watched the carp

Work at the bottom;

Mud trails followed

After them.

Twenty years ago

He stood by the paint shed;

Right about where

the monkey bars are now

in his work boots

and hard hat.

On a coffee break he watched

The carp work at the bottom;

Mud trails followed

After them.


This is Lou’s poem found scrawled and pegged to a cork board when cleaning out our parent’s house.

Near Waterford, Pa.

It was still summer-late August-

But during the night, fall had crept in

For a preview.

Breath hung in the dawn air a moment

Before floating off

And mist settled on everything,

Dripping from mailboxes and signs

A few degrees from glazing.

An old farmer had risen early

Excited by the chill.

Thinking October thoughts of

Hunting and pumpkins

He drove his battered mostly red pickup

Toward town.

Rounding a bend his left rear tire came loose

Dropping the hub in a banging, grinding, sparking,

Skid into the asphalt.

The tire kept going

Across two yards, through a birdbath

And flowerpatch, splitting a fat rhododendron

Finally coming to rest with a thud

against the home of a chain stretching, growling, teeth baring

German Shepard named Leo.

The old farmer leaned against a fender

Of his listing, clicking truck

And lit a cigarette under the red sky.

It was going to be a good day.



There is a path through the ruins where one can amble for quiet hours

taking care not to trip over what once was overhead.

Or fall into the leavings below.

Where once were sirens, whistles, smoke, roars and crashing,

Are now trees, brush, and birds-the twittering sentinels

Of what has passed.

The path probably started as a path-a deer trail through the woods.

Then it became a road that first wagons and carts

then cars and trucks hustled commerce along.

None of those could pick a trail through now.

It’s reverted to a deer trail again, fit only for careful feet, bicycles or, I suppose a horse and rider.

But a horse, though trained, is not much different than the rodents, deer and coyotes

that now use this thoroughfare.

Ruined for us by us.

Thus saved.

Not Her

She froze near the bottom of the stairs

Startled by the form

In the window beside the front door.

Some other worldly wraith-white and shaved-stared,


Nothing to break the pale but the dark nipples against her milky skin.

The tiny breasts lifted and fell with her breathing.

Below a dark mane, button eyes sewn onto a doll’s face

Searched for something that wasn’t there.

Her lean legs wavy, her flat stomach nothing but a creamy smudge,

Her face, nondescript from here.

She looked away from the reflection.

It wasn’t her at all.

Cabin 29

It’s tucked at the end of a red dog road,
Up where the mountain laurel has a firm grip
And the snow stays through April.
Securely remote, it even leans away
From the others and the bustle of the square.

The seasonal village was born of
The Sons of Father Junipero Serra years ago,
When communing with Nature was thought to
Grease the hinges of Heaven’s Gate.
My father-himself a Son-had bequeathed access to me
Those same years ago,
When I was thought to be a worthy successor.

The woodshed and plumbing are a short walk
Down a rocky path, made slick by the constant
Mist and drip. Snow would be better.
Difficult to walk at night with a flashlight and
An armload of The Sons’ wet wood
To feed a sputtering fire.
The fireplace never drew for shit-
Smoke tears blur the room.

The rules are simple as rules go:

The whiskey’s in a thermos under the sink
And quarts of beer rest in burlap and ice
In the car trunk.
The cat sleeps in my suitcase under the table
And Sherri, after coming in on the backseat
Floor hidden by blankets and dirty clothes,
Has yet to leave the bedroom, where
My mother used to sleep.

Sometimes even after getting away,
You need to get away.


The Cup

Wasn’t much of a cup really;

Heavy and thick, appearing to hold

Much more than it actually did.

Bought a couple of generations ago from

Some failing diner where small cups

Were the rule. Purchased by the case,

This was the lone survivor of its’ race

Plucked like some Mayan artifact

From the mud eddied against

A crumpled wall of a flood-ruined cabin.


This cup had come a long way.

It had held a child’s milk and cookie crumbs,

Tea and later, whiskey with ice.

It had held cowboy coffee fire-brewed thick

And bitter on dewy West Virginia mornings.

It had survived two years of college holding

Everything from broth to tequila

Then, coming full circle, my two kids

And their crumbs. It came through the divorce

Unscathed and, after the move, found itself

Beside me greeting every Florida sunrise.

Until now.


She knocked it off the bed stand last night,

Bitching that it shouldn’t have been there

In the first place.