The Mockery of the Swollen Garden: 29th Post

Sunflower & bees

 

After the Death of His Twin

—for John Fuller, age 80

 

The solo creak of his Naugahyde chair.

 

The excess of fruit broadcasting its ripeness.

 

In the closet, twice the needed pants and shirts, twice the needed gaping shoes, worn at the heel.

 

The nervous voice of his landlord, trying to remember which one passed.

 

The sniff and yip of the dog, double-checking under the table.

 

The mockery of the swollen garden.

 

The sports section left folded with the classifieds.

 

His unspoken opinion of the news story about welfare mothers.

 

The uselessness of the second bookmark pressed into the novel.

 

In front of the TV, half the snoring noise to waken him to his started insistence, “I wasn’t…”

 

The other narrow bed, tightly tucked.

 

The hearing aid left on the end table for the first time.

 

In the bathroom mirror, only two hips, two nipples, one penis.

 

The surprising regularity of his heartbeat.

We Call Our Game ‘Knowledge’: 28th Post

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What It’s Like to Be Adopted

Ah, my pretties, there was a stillness
think of it as sphere-shaped
a ping-pong ball without the ball—
and perhaps before that grand explosions
around other emptinesses. Our stillness
collapsed, smashed itself white and blue
flew red and purple
out, we say. Flew to what
we call here and there.

Sweet ones, the pieces moved this far and
that far until
divided by now and then we called their changes
speed, their journeys time.
We call our game knowledge
as we hold hands and live its fun and terror
for, dearest listeners, each particle attracts all others
so we know of gravity, love, luminosity,
and the shifts of momentum called history.

We play here
in this tiny history
the balls we toss falling
(where we call down) like the bits
of what we do not know
flying toward the center of another
stillness
before they what we call begin
what we call again.

 

Those Awful Heads: 23rd Post

Amish Dresses Drying on a Clothes Line

 

This poem was published in The Centennial Review (Vol. 38, No. 2, Spring 1994).

 

Esther

Are all the doors locked?
Is the stove on? You’ll
check it? All right then
I’ll leave that to you.
Do you like colored glass?

See this clear blue vase?
When I was five I’d
say to my aunt where’s
my pity pitcher? She’d say
here it is darlin and

she gave me that pticher
I treasure it more than
anything I have. My grandmother
never gave me anything. My
daughter says I shouldn’t remember

such but how can I
help it? Is the stove
on? Do you think the
stove is on? No? Well
then all right. And as

I was telling you we
had geese in a pen
about as big as this
room and one time they
jumped up and flew and

a coyote got one of
em and carried it off
too far our gun couldn’t
shoot so far you know.
Have you ever heard coyotes

howl? My mother said they
shouldn’t have left their nice
pen. Are all the doors
locked? We’re isolated here you
know. Though I could swing

a polecat by the tail
I guess it’s OK you
say they’re all locked? Well
then all right. Are you
going to be here in

the house with me all
night? Will you sleep up
there or down here? As
I was saying one summer
a woman visited me at

our cottage up north and
she hated the woods. She
didn’t like the spider at
the swimming dock either I
told her it was my

pet and how did she
like my other pet this
garter snake. Well she went
home after two weeks though
she was supposed to stay

with me all summer. But
that was better don’t you
think? Are you going to
be here in the house
with me all night? Are

all the doors locked? You’ll
check them? Good then I’ll
leave that to you. Do
you think the stove is
on? No? All right then.

Do you like to travel?
It’s good for a person
to go places while they’re
young. My parents went up
to the Black Hills once

oh they were pretty that
was before those heads were
there. The Indians were real
mad you know when they
put in those awful heads.

Moving, Listening, Leaning: 22nd Post

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These 3 haiku were published in Haiku Zasshi Zo (June 1989). The photo is from a cornfield after harvesting by both humans and assorted undomesticated animals.

 

haiku for changing places

1.
moving through the fog
the wary fox approaches
a sunlit hillside

2.
in the hot stone flute
a listening woman walks
where the wind spirals

3.
fleshless cornstalks lean
like cartoon figures begging
in brown unison

Tenth Post

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This poem was published in Denver Quarterly (Vol. 29, No. 01, Summer 1994).

 

My Father at Ninety

sees with a permanent
sort of déjà vu.
We ate here yesterday,
he growls, or,
you already carried that box in here.
The fool as always,
I continue to bring in the box
containing a book he has already read.

Remembering the future
as readily as the past,
he perches, mantislike,
on the fragile leaves of now.
In case time is linear,
the fool plants flowers.
Fools will, he says.

Sixth Post

Mirrored Image of a Cow Chewing behind a Wire Fence

 

This poem was published in The Georgia Review (Vol. XLVII, No. 2, Summer 1993).

 

Set Theory

A Conversation with My Mother

 

This circle represents {people}: “the set of all people.”
This second circle, inside, is {tax evaders}:
all tax evaders are people, but not all people
are tax evaders, as far as I know.

This little circle, half inside, half outside the first,
overlapping the second a bit, is {Indiana residents}.
Its elements are Hoosiers. Dogs, cats, and cattle
who live in Indiana are members of this set

as long as they stay out of the big circle.
Some tax evaders live in Indiana.
Can you draw me a circle for {Star Trek enthusiasts}?
How about {Hoosier tax evaders on drugs}?

As if they were having some sort of out-of-body experience
some sets are not members of themselves.
{all things in print} is a member of itself
but {Methodists} is not itself a Methodist

for or against gambling and nonsexist language in the Bible.
{things not Methodist} belongs to itself, and you can
see the problem with {all things not in print}. Do you think
{all sets that are not members of themselves} is a member of itself?

Now draw me a circle of all the good people.
Remember, some are Christians, some are not,
some are blonde, some are illiterate,
some are fine singers, some like pickled beets,

some are homeless, some are homosexuals,
and some have been to Paris. However,
those currently beside themselves with anger
are not members of themselves, so don’t include them.

 

 

 

 

Fifth Post

 

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This poem was published in The Antioch Review (Vol. 51, 1993).

 

First Poem About My Father

What about his shirts, then.
He wore white ones, I think, to work
every evening after early dinner.
In home movies of him pitching
a military green canvas tent
beside a transparent stream in Banff or Jasper,
he’s wearing plaid with lots of red.
That tent, folded, filled a giant duffel bag
and couldn’t be lifted by a child.
The poles were massive, rigid,
in pieces that scraped at the joints
when they got dirt in them.
It’s the American school of architecture:
forget bending with the storm like a willow.
If it crumbles or cracks in an earthquake,
build it bigger and thicker next time;
if your first child disappoints you,
don’t let the second or third one get too close.