On My Way

September Sun never quite rises,

Choosing to slink along the ridgeline,

Never overhead

Collar turned up against the coming darkness,

Bound for the back door and it’s own

Irish Goodbye. 

Glancing sideways at the forest on the way out

It cuts sharp shadows never seen in summer

That split the stream and 

Frighten the trout.

One Tent

Let's sleep in the same tent for awhile.
Hold up beside a river, 
in a place nobody knows.
Up off the gravel in the high grass
We’ll tend the fire and 
gather strength.

We’ll spend the night 
dancing in the starlight
Making love to the light of the moon.
We’ll invent a language-
Secret looks, words and winks
That only we understand.
Then we’ll sleep and dream 
the same dream.

We’ll share the sunrise,
Pack and go on;
Knowing the world will never look
The same again. 

Written for my brother’s wedding which took place on a dock on a glassy lake tucked between rolling green mountains and high blue skies. We were surrounded by friends, families, feasted on chicken and good wine and danced under swinging lanterns to mountain fiddlers. The marriage lasted years, through two farms, six dogs, a couple of herds of delicious small goats, countless chickens, ducks and many good dinners. But I knew from that day on the dock that she was crazier ‘n a shithouse rat and it was only a matter of time. Of course, I’m sure she would have a different perspective but this isn’t journalism. I couldn’t give two shits about her perspective. 

Lazy Bugs

The stars are reflected in the grass tonight,
as fireflies refuse to fly anymore. 
They lay about in the thick brush,
a flickering blanket answering the twinkle
from on high.

Do they act like this on long summer evenings?
How could they?
Kids would scoop them up by the million!
Jar them, squish them,
write their initials with glowing 
firefly goop on their arms. 
Boy kids chasing girl kids squealing
with glossy boogers of firefly goop.
No, they wouldn't lay about like this
in the summer. 

But now they seem tired, these flies.
These non-flies. These fire layabouts. 
It's September after all.
Dark at eight thirty,
kids busy with their homework,
staring at their screens.
It's safe to lay in the weeds,
done with the darting and flying
exerting minimum effort.

If a firefly's flicker is meant
To draw a mate,
these lazy bums should 
go home alone. 


© TDR - 2020

Late July

The heat even stifles the birds-

In no hurry to begin their morning chatter.

There are more nests than usual this year

But fewer eggs.

Fewer hopping fledglings. 

Maybe it’s the full moon gliding across the sky

Wearing Jupiter like a hat and filling the valley with

A gauzy glow.

I’ll have no problem seeing the deer if she trespasses 

Into the garden again. 

The rocks-chosen carefully for size and weight

Line the table beside the steaming coffee cup.

Best to drink it now, it will be too hot once the sun rises.

There was a time when a plundering doe would have left

Here on her last gallop spurting crimson where the arrow had pierced her.

Hard to remember such things with St. Francis smiling

Benignly in the moonshine under the grapes. 

But still, a solid rock to the ribs will serve as notice to 

Go and eat someone else’s tomatoes. 

They are tireless, though in their labors,

Building frantically as if a new nest, near the old one,

Will make their eggs viable. 

They couple and squawk and dive and scree, not understanding

Why none of it works anymore. 

Up on the back street Rudy’s truck slips quietly into

It’s spot under the mulberry. 

He must be back at work.

Hash Browns

IMG_7048 (1)

The figs were trimmed like hedgerows under the back terrace. 

We took our coffee there overlooking the river. 

The fruit, thick and heavy, awaited her soft hands to get there before the wasps. 

Her tarts-light, sweet and savory, garnished with purple chive flowers-were a seasonal attraction that almost rivaled the fishing.

She was Irish, who kept the place.

Ruddy and cheerful. Efficient. 

No hint in her green eyes that she’d lost two boys. 

One in the war.

One soon after, of grief.

Sorrow did not hang on her. 

Did not shroud her as it rightfully might have. 

As it could have with a lesser spirit.

Of course, no one sees her in the kitchen, 

Where a chance tear might drip into the diced potatoes,

Salting the morning’s hash browns.

Lover’s Song

The lover’s song hoped to chronical the sad, continuing struggle to find someone who could make it all seem right. In the pictures all the men looked like thumbs, big and vacant, hats at a jaunty tilt. Rich girls with backyard fences, angels coupled with sailors and airmen. Dreams watch each other warily, not wanting to draw first. Soft luxuriant curs loll in the faded light. Girls and drivers tricked out to get liquor and better clothes. Half gallons of sweet wine, six packs of beer and jeans that rode low.  Jump humped, born to suffer, made to undress in the wilderness.

He threw on the businessman’s Stetson that belonged to his grandfather, a renown liar, and sang:

“I will never treat you mean,

Never start no kind of scene

I will tell you every place and every person I’ve been

I will always be true,

Never go sneaking out on you…”

It was easier to lie when he sang. But he wouldn’t let it bother him because he knew beyond doubt that she would kill him.

Eventually.

Lying April

I’m out in the back working the compost again, pulling the sweetest and darkest for the garden that still mostly slumbers. At this particular moment, the sky is a heartbreaking blue with painfully white clouds smirking down through the lie that is April. I uncovered the fig and threaded the grape vines two weeks ago when the forsythia blazed and the first groundhog of the season wandered into my trap to be ferried across the river to the church grounds where he’d cavort with the hundreds of bunnies and hedgehogs that had made the same trip over the years. I’d caught trout on Good Friday and, forgetting sunscreen, burned my nose and cheeks. Now for the past three dawns, I’ve sprayed water on the buds to ward off the frosts that have rolled through and right now, at this particular moment, wearing sunglasses makes as much sense as an aqualung. She’s yelling for me to come in before I catch my death, but snow squall or no, I’m putting lettuce in. Today. Why do I always let April do this to me?

Georgie

Georgie was sitting behind the station drinking the cheapest quart that thin money could buy. His mask was flapping, hanging from a band over one ear and showed stains of paint overspray, tobacco, blood and probably snot if I got close enough to look. Betting he found it. He was leaning to the left, away from his bottle hand, because the bleached-to-pink red resin chair he was sitting on was dumpster salvage-tossed there with a broken leg. I tried to steer clear because Georgie was always good to bum a buck or two which was okay normally but not so right now. He saw me right enough, but all he wanted was an ear in passing. “They should drop an atom bomb on all of it”, he said, looking at me but not-as his eye tended to float and wander. “Wipe out all this sickness and disease at once.” “Georgie,” I said moving on, “That would take us out too.” “That’s what I mean”, he coughed. “Start again but get it right this time. Have god not make any animal that walks on two legs. Give us enough time, we’ll just fuck everything up!” I slowed, waiting to see if he was done. He didn’t seem sure.

Accommodations

IMG_2800

Ma still had most of her teeth at the end. At least parts of most of them and it was one of the few sources of vanity she had left. There were gaps, of course, mostly along the sides and in the back but they weren’t too obvious unless she wide smiled which she really didn’t.

With the gaps she had to chew her nicotine gum in the front where you’d see it flopping about threatening to drop out at any time which it sometimes would but never threatened a fire or left a burn mark as her Pall Malls did. She’d just pick it up off her lap or the table (if it made the floor it stayed there) and popped it back into her mouth.

Things changed the day she broke off one of her front teeth in a sandwich. “The hell?” she asked angrily looking at the small yellowish nubbin stuck crookedly like an old gravestone in the bun. Her dentist was long dead and she wasn’t interested in finding another. Just smiled less, talked into her chest and concentrated hard on chewing away front the new jagged hole in her mouth.

Eventually, for a short time, she went back to smoking. She was shaky then and needed both hands but knew enough to move the whole operation out onto the sunporch where her plastic chair and concrete floor presented less of a fire hazard.

Spring Wind

IMG_3338

A poem by Louis Jenkins with an afterword

“The spring wind comes through and knocks over trashcans and trees. It has something to do with warm fronts and cold fronts, I think, or with high and low pressure systems, things that I don’t really understand and that aren’t really an explanation anyway. Ultimately, the spring wind is the result of some relationship between the Earth and the Sun that may not be all that healthy after all. The wind comes in a big huff, slams doors, pushes things around and kicks up the dirt. The big bully spring wind comes through on its way nowhere and, ha ha! We love it.”

No Louis, not all of us do. For me, the winds carry at least a discomfort, sometimes-depending on the spirits- a full blown dread. Whether in the woods, where the trees groan and grind together, the leaves sweep up and fly fearfully backward torn away from the soft place where they rested, peacefully composting. Or in the yard wondering which garbage can would go rolling (not so much fun when you got to chase it), which shingles would go or is this the blow that’ll finally bring the limb from the old hickory down on the shed. Ma told a story about the spring winds, how they picked up her little cousin Jeffrey and tossed him off the escarpment where her auntie lived and into the river below, to drown in full view of the Easter revelers who couldn’t get down the hill in time to save him. It was a story that never seemed quite right to me. Ma was little herself then, hadn’t seen Jeffrey blow into the river, just heard about it. Then of course, saw him in his casket looking like a little angel in his white suit and blonde hair-his sky blue eyes closed forever. You ask me, something else happened to that boy. I’ve seen the pictures of all those people; the flinty gray eyes (of course they were black and white pictures so it would figure) but still. There was something unsettling about the way they stared unsmiling into the camera. And there were other stories Ma almost told afore biting her lip. At any rate, they’re all dead now and I’m the onliest one who even remembers that story. The shit we carry through life can be burdensome.