A Work-in-Progress (Poetry)
Voyages by land, air, and water, through and in poverty and want, illness and recovery, inhabit the poems in this collection, which in the end should speak for themselves. Here are a few of them:
There was one road, Short Tract, paved and
decent condition but too hot for bare feet
the three days we walked it that went
through an abandoned town, Angelica,
white Colonial bird nests and knocked down
shacks along Main Street, and dead ended
three miles north at the Baptist church
in Prospect with crazed clapboard houses
leaned over and a field of apple trees
with ruined fruit, but Short Tract before
Angelica rolled up and down hills under
gray clouds piled up like anvils past rotted
shacks and barns and wheat fields turned
to mud puddles or burnt to stubble but for
one straight rising stretch that showed us
how many we were, a northbound flowing
stream of humanity driving half dead cows,
a pickup truck held together with baling wire
carrying toddlers and elderly, gaunt horses
drawing carts piled up with firewood, pots
and pans, ten gallon plastic jugs of water
and boxes of silver fish infested pasta
with men, women and children on foot on
either side carrying babies, blankets, tools,
knives, rifles, axes and chickens live and
skinned on their backs swatting flies under
the iron sky and finally setting down at
the side of the road refusing to go one step
further, their faces, young and old, etched
with woe but impassive too as though
constant strain had carved itself into skin
that hardened and leathered around it.
— Originally published in Future Cycle 2012
Time weaves what it touches
seamlessly for its appearances
but here it’s leased to others—
the doctor who waits and sees,
the nurse who’ll be right back,
the cleaning woman whose shift ends on it.
What we know of it lying and sitting
in florescent light clattering
against white walls on
leaving us dull and dreamless off
drifts over on the airless breeze of talk
from the nurse’s station,
gathers hope of a meaning coming in
and hangs heavy but insubstantial over your bed
like phantom limb pain
reaching down from its dread formless cloud
for the simple touch of finger to finger.
Guilty of health
I weigh the odds of missing rounds
against a coffee run
or stealing a moment outside with light and time
on their daily stroll.
I could be touched here too I tell me
to put the finger on your mystery—
a childhood malady or distant cousin’s rare
affliction—and buy you back some many million
beats before the last that comes in any case.
— Originally published in Medical Humanities
for Joe Saccio
Blood feeds on red marrow to surge and rip
through bone and be the fuel our bark sails on,
bodies of water and their memories
come to land heavy laden with awareness
of pure being only in this skin.
Arrows writhe too and twist plucked
from their quiver to pierce flesh and bone
as though coming home.
The heart strains and comes to a stop
chasing its beat while those left behind
witness catastrophe transfixed
across time, generations, fathers and sons.
To say accident is not all is to be chased outdoors
to find bone in a gash of tree trunk
wasting on a lawn, bark scaling off
its tender beeswaxed skin you might think
pulled from you where you stand.
It is to seek blood’s coursing in red dyed
wooden wands bursting from a factory trash can,
pink seashells’ spiral whorls, the dream
blood ends in, left over from a garage sale
and a strap for hanging Saint Sebastian by
in a length of leather drooped over a box
outside a shoe repair shop.
A thousand arrows have spilled in wonder
above my head these past two years
yet looking up this morning I saw that I,
yellow marrow fattening for the plunge,
have been carried on the shoulder of one
who shed his martyrdom with his skin.
Invisible wanderer, he bequeaths the life
he fought to keep, inviting me to bear the blood
that bears me on to what I belong to only.
— Originally published in Commonweal