He lumbers across the dark parking lot Dragging his feet like bad dreams. The golden light of his youth feathered Through the leaves of the trees shading the stream. Those he came with; who had brought him, Had faded away; long-gone forgotten dreams. Caterpillars and ants fell to feed the trout, Or minnows which, in turn, feed the lunkers downstream. When he fought, as he could feel he would soon, His scarred knuckles pulverized the spots where once hung his dreams. There was a chessboard in the attic where an empty spool stood for a bishop And a plastic army man was the king-thrusting with bayonets and screams.
He was careful on the path down to the barn. The first snowfall-not yet finished-had made it slick and he had somehow forgotten his cane back on the porch.
Inside, the cows milled about desultorily eating the hay he had pulled down from the loft earlier. He loosened his collar a bit to suck in some of the damp warmth from their breath when he heard the unmistakable song of a blue bird. He scanned the rafters and immediately picked him out from the stray, gray sparrows and wrens that flitted about the place.
“What you do, little guy?” he asked aloud. “Miss the last train south?”
Up at the house he left his boots inside the door and peeled off his old coat. The glow of the television leaked out of the living room in back. There his wife sat in the chair that the medical company had sent over-the one that would help her get up and down.
“Saw a bluebird in the barn”, he told her speaking loudly.
“Oh?” she answered. “He shouldn’t be here now, should he?”
“Guess the weather had him confused. Now he’s stuck I guess.”
“Bluebird in the barn”, she said almost to herself in a sing-song childish way. Then, “I wisht I could see him.”
He glanced at the mute aluminum frame of her walker. “You’ll see him and plenty more in the spring. We’ll have them all over the place…”
She said nothing more, just looked out the window where the snow still fell and it was night-dark at suppertime.
The next day dawned bright and cold. He made his way unsteadily down the hill relying overmuch, he thought, on the cane he clutched firmly. He was kicking away snow from the sweep of the barn door when he saw the small splash of blue over by the trough. He walked over and scooped up the dead bird and a little puff of snow besides. It wasn’t cat-mauled or damaged at all. Just dead.
He didn’t realize he was crying until a heavy tear spattered on the tiny blue head.
“Fuck.” he whispered, chilled at using a word that hadn’t passed his lips since Korea.
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
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
This is Lou’s poem found scrawled and pegged to a cork board when cleaning out our parent’s house.
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: NO BOOZE NO PETS NO VISITORS AFTER DARK 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.
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.
She knocked it off the bed stand last night,
Bitching that it shouldn’t have been there
In the first place.
A bridge spanned the vast brownfield
where a long-gone steel mill used to line
hundreds of glowing ingots for cooling.
At night the red glow filled the sky like
Hell’s own football stadium.
It was over this field, in seventh grade, that I’d dreamed I died.
In the dream, I was flying above the rows and rows of red-orange bundles;
strange because at that age, I had never been in a plane.
But there I was in a plane losing altitude and crashing into the black river beyond the field.
I remember the impact, the cold water, the darkness.
Then, by some intervention in the way of things that was never explained,
I was returned to life for three days.
I went home. Saw my Mom, she was young then.
Did the dishes after breakfast as I had returned in the morning.
Went around the block and bought some second-hand comic books for a nickel.
Then later picked up the dry cleaning from across the street.
I was bored. Couldn’t figure out what to do next with three extra days of life.
This is what I dreamed as a twelve-year-old.
So later that day, I reported to a secret place and returned to the darkness.
I thought of that dream and of the sharpener who came
Bumping down the alley ringing
a bell on his pushcart, laden with grinding wheels and stones.
Stroke after stroke after stroke, humming, his squinting eyes alive,
absorbed in the task-the life-of each blade.
I asked him once, on tiptoes to see his face in the shadows of his beaten hat,
what was the song?
He smiled-a gold tooth next to no tooth beside a gap
that his tongue filled as he worked.
He handed me the scissors in exchange for the coins
my gramma had entrusted to me and shuffled on.
Maybe if I had an axe or hatchet, even a few decent knives,
I could sharpen them. That would be something.
Perhaps another sandwich or
a bourbon with a single ice cube would be in order.
And not caring that a baby bunny is eating the zinnias.
But I’ll still throw a rotten tomato at him.
And feel the twinge in my shoulder.
© TDR – 2019
“Did a lot of work in this town years ago.”
I wander the city, a ghost,
Remembering those who wandered with me.
Some now dead, which is sad,
Some just gone;
Which is worse.
Down East 9th from the water and new stuff,
To the bottom.
Buildings are still here, otherwise named or purposed.
This was this, this was that.
Was I ever here? in this one?
What’s that? Is that where I went to the
With the thick wafers and sweet red wine.
Did she live there?
He worked here on the tenth floor.
Did we lunch over there?
Was it raining?
I remember an umbrella and puddles.
Does anyone see me as I walk by?
Nobody’s busy today-not this early.
They could, if they cared to look.
I’ll touch one of them,
See if they notice.
Would I have?
Back when I had substance and bustled
Rather than wandered?
The news box lies empty and open,
Broken on its side.
Gulls peck calmly at popcorn
Strewn in the gutter
As I pass by dragging my shadow behind.
© – TDR 2019