“Hey pastor…”

Hey pastor,

Hey pastor she cried,

Runnin’ up red-eyed and blotchy

After the service.

Lookit this she said,

Opening the postcard that had been folded in her purse.

Lookit what he sent.

He’s in Wyomin’ now, she said.

Settled up on a place, she said, hissing

Giving him no time to read the note.

He’s fixin’ fence, he says, runnin’ wire and is that walkin’ horses?

What’s he know bout that? She asked,

With his rickety knees and balky hips.

He’s a townie kid like me…and I never wanted to run off like that.

What’s to become of him?

Of me?

You mustn’t worry about him, little darlin’, the pastor said leanin’ close,

Allowin’ his gaze to hungrily crawl acrost her bodice.

The lord will pervide for them such as him.

You come with me lil darlin’, he said.

I can’t tell you what he was thinkin’, but

I allus thought you were a sweet little one.

Let us git you into the back…

Git some coffee in you….

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Turtle Heart

Snapper

Took this a few hours before this guy became a base for an interesting spaghetti sauce. Because soup would have been too much of a cliche. From the period in my life when I had to eat things.

An hour after it’s been shot between the eyes-

Beheaded, hung to drain and gutted-

The snapping  turtle’s heart will still beat.

Cut from its carcass and left on the cutting board,

It will beat, regular and strong-

pumping nothing-

but air.

Until finally, frustrated with nothing to do, it stops.

Doesn’t quit;

Stops.

Old timers-Turtle Hunters- reach into holes along the mud banks of rivers,

Happy that snappers crawl up into their lairs

Head-first.

But all could tell the tale of the contrary turtle that backed in-

Catching the contrary bastard that made a habit of reaching into

Holes in mud banks.

Turtles don’t let go.

They can be caught on a hunk of rope if they’re pissed off enough to bite on it

And be hauled into the boat.

Splayed in their mud cave, they can’t be pulled out.

Shovels are brought and mud banks are torn down to rescue the hand;

Sometimes minus the thumb or finger. But rescued.

And the turtle is still soup.

The brain that makes men reach into turtle holes

Is the same that makes them go into the mines.

Because their daddy did.

Because someone has to.

Because everyone else is afraid to.

Because we’re convinced that peace must be bought

With suffering.

 

TDR-2017

February Rain

img_6391

I don’t think I’ll live through this,

He told his friend as they watched the cold rain

Glisten under the oversized fluorescents outside the window.

What?

Life.

A car pulled up to the service island dinging the bell.

His friend pulled on gloves and headed for the door.

May there never come a time when you say that with relief

Instead of dread, he said with a wink as he ducked out into the weather.

Reflection

reflection-2

So I guess it’s kind of funny how
I loved you so way back when
You say I wouldn’t know you now
Well I didn’t even know you then

-Avett Brothers “I never knew you”

I buried an old lover last month.

Of course, I didn’t-not actually. We were years ago.

What I did was read her obit and have a few drinks.

That had been an odd year of comings and goings and she’d dug her elbows into the middle of it determined to claim something. As if there was anything to claim. As if there was anything to be had.

She pushed and I pushed back. Territory was won-lost-won again.

Exhausting-

Such relief when she left.

Could never have calmed her.

A friend had seen her a couple of years ago in an upriver joint that we frequented back in the day.

I showed up there a few times at the end of long drives just to….

What exactly?

Could not imagine.

She died with her father’s name.

Evidently, I was not the only one who couldn’t calm her.

Her picture looked as it should have. I would have recognized her on the street or in that bar.

Now she’s gone,

But in a different way that she had been to me for years.

Now she’s a shallow reflection of me-no longer herself.

Actually closer now than ever-joining the chorus of the dead who follow me, laughing when I piss on my shoes or forget to zip my fly.

Rain

Bend
“Mommy, Mommy” he cried,
As best he could
Around the tubes that snaked down his throat
Pumping air into his lungs.

Why “Mommy”? thought his old man
Sitting at the bedside.
He immediately felt horrible for thinking it.
But there it was.

They said it must have been what he was yelling
As he lay on the bottom
Settled among the stoneflies, crayfish and slippery rocks.

Sun shafts sliced their way down to him-
Ladders for mayflies to climb.
But no one could see.
Minnows kept their distance
Snapping at the bubbles that rose.
Fewer now-and tiny.

It seemed too long when one of them
Finally found him-upstream from where they thought-
Gently curled and blue between two rocks
No deeper than six feet.
Traditional grave depth.

When he choked and sputtered-
Gave up the river on the shore
It seemed he would be fine.
That’s what the ambulance driver had said.

But it had been too long.
The nightmare of three days in a backwoods hospital
Only prolonged the agony
And cast shadows of regret and blame
That darkened decades.

The water that poured from the boy’s lungs that day
Flowed to join the North Fork where it sluiced through beaver dams, across gravel bars,
Then down to the Potomac, over the falls, and finally into the Chesapeake;
Across the gills of red fish, through jelly fish then north-
To ride the sun into the clouds and spatter as chill rain on a stony pasture
In the Scottish Highlands.

Big bass still lurk between the rocks where he had lain
So many years ago.
Now they are all gone-buried with their memories, nightmares and torments
While the river is still here. Still everywhere.
And minnows still dart after bubbles
That come from nothing.

Big Pete-A Barroom Epitaph


Epitaph

You hear about Big Pete? The old man asked.
No, what?
He’s not doing too good.

When I knew Big Pete, about ten years ago,
He was over 300 pounds. Probably closer to four.
Football was long behind him.
His ankles looked like telephone poles jammed into sneakers
That he never managed to tie.

He mostly sat-sometimes on two chairs side by side;
Getting up was a production and walking-when he finally got started-
Was a bangy herky-jerk that always seemed just shy
Of throwing all four limbs across the room in opposite directions.
This was when Big Pete was in his thirties-
Doin’ good.

It’ll go like that for a time.
Big Pete? Not doin’ too good.
That little phrase-those four words-covering whatever imaginable
Pain and suffering life finally passed his way.

After a time,
Not doin’ too good takes a decided turn.
Big Pete? He’s dyin’ I hear….

Hear about Big Pete?
Dyin?
Dead.
No more updates.
But dead isn’t where it ends for Big Pete.

It ends with-
Did you hear about Big Pete?
Who?

That’s the end.

 

Fall

Autum Glow 2

How did you manage to escape

November’s winnowing?

Knowing that soon you will all swirl

To the winds.

Then-in browns and grays-curl

To the floor.

But for now, for the first time,

You stand alone.

The sole bright spot.

A beacon.

A remembrance of what was,

And a herald of what is to come.

Herald