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Many thanks to Michael Lee Johnson, who has posted a new interview with me on Interviews Poets, Writers. Check it out.
—in memory of Earl R. Jones,
with much love
We kept HEMP in the gully
between the cabin
and the crude outhouse—
wooden on three sides,
burlap door on the other, a bucket inside.
Likely the heavy green boat was
worthless, except to us. Someone
stole it anyhow. Daddy built her,
named her for us: Helen . . . Elsie . . .
Michael . . . and Pam . . . HEMP. We
suggested a final e—for Earl. Daddy said,
“No!” We put her in the river
a time or two before she was gone.
I wonder if the thief loved that boat
as much as we did.
On the Fourth of July, Daddy always
lit firecrackers in his hand, seated
on the hill in front of the cabin,
throwing them hard.
We loved hearing them bang,
watching them fire the dark, exploding high
above Spring River. Perhaps the echo
of their report still rings those waters,
meandering through Oklahoma
on the way to the Grand
Lake of the Cherokees.
The cabin lies in ruins. A small patch
of concrete, poured from ready-mix and water
that Daddy and Mum carried,
bucketful at a time from the river,
and the rusty remains
of the old wood stove where Mum’s
canned beef stew
and biscuits turned brown
never tasted so good—all that remain.
Charred window shades,
perhaps falsely mistaken for junk,
once maps in the elementary
school where Paw was janitor turned hero—
giving new life to priceless treasure.
I wonder why some fool thought
a mere stranger could destroy
by setting it ablaze.
first published in Sanskrit
Took 2nd place Gold Circle Award in Open Poetry at Columbia University
The iron seat, though painted white,
would stain our clothes with rust,
and the embarrassment of golden mud
causes a certain hesitancy.
We look at flowers,
sniff the ocean breeze,
dip our toes into pollen-
Alone with desire. Flanked by azaleas.
We lie in sweetly-scented springtime
down beneath the magnolia
by invitation of the grass.
first published in Independence Boulevard
When I wanted a birdhouse,
Daddy built one. We hung it
from a branch of the maple tree.
A rusted hanger keeps it there,
though it rocks when the wind
blows. And a dusting of snow
on its lavendered roof glistens—
coldly—in the light of a
haloed moon. No one occupies
the duplex for wrens. Despite our
hospitality, they always winter
further south. The leaves
turn yellow and off they fly,
while fickle birds leave apartments
in disarray. The remnants
of an abandoned nest jutting
through the northernmost door.
A well-crafted perch—
once painted green—
has faded and fallen to the ground,
landing with the common sticks,
hiding under frost-tipped leaves.
first published in Tacenda, also in Paper Snowflakes
It has been said that in times of stress, like these days just before a heated election and during economic upheaval, that poetry sooths the soul, giving us truth and beauty and music. So I offer these.
When Summer Ends
There is little traffic on this dead end road.
A river flows under a girder bridge.
The mountainside, once on fire with color,
is past its glorious prime.
Leaf-tornados stir up the evening,
brown and dying like Adam and Eve.
Fallen leaves are twirling and dancing.
Twirling and dancing:
A part of the essence of the fall.
The wind picks up and blows like a whistle.
One part of the sky remains angel-wing blue.
The mountainside is past its prime,
a hint of mist cools the country air.
But who would notice?
The river under a girder bridge,
where two trains pass on the parallel tracks?
One train is full of coal. The other is
longer and completely empty.
I wave at the westbound engineer.
The blue in the sky grows darker and darker.
first published in Right Hand Pointing
Reverie In the Woods
I’m trudging along the blue ridge—
scanning for beauty, note pad ready.
The path in the woods is shaded ’til noon.
Dew stays on the grass beside the marked trail.
The path up the mountain looks over into valley,
where droplets of water dance on the jagged rocks.
When I die, I will not leave behind
books, piled high enough, but rather,
like Keats, my brain will be under-gleaned.
So many words. So little light.
I refuse to think this pain away. “No, no!” I cry,
at the over-look, where the houses below look like
toys. “The hush will come soon enough.
There are hints already in the green water.”
I am scuffing my boots as I climb.
So many words. With so little light—
but the God judges love offerings, even now,
before a breathless body’s burned, charcoal ashes
thrown to the wind, return to the forest with its
small gray squirrel and in the spring mating robins,
past the calling loons, and then still, still, on.
fist published in Southern Hum
Remember how the wind
held yellow leaves in airy fingers?
The last leaf,
in high branches, clung to the tree.
We walked through full sun,
wondering how we kept our footings
while acorns snapped
beneath our feet. Remember
the contumacious violets in brown
grass? Pretending the rain was
early snow, we chose the long way home
and sang off-key.
first published in Domicile
Last night—thanks to Scott Owens—I read at Poetry Hickory, along with John Amen. I read from my chapbooks Gathering the Broken Pieces and Paper Snowflakes (scroll down) and newer poems from my book manuscript Prayer In the Fog (under consideration but not yet published). I also read a brand new poem, “Captured Light” from a project by the same name that isn’t published anywhere yet.
There was a small but appreciative crowd. I was surprised to see Carter Monroe (that’s his pen name) there. He said he’d come to hear me read, but he’d also come to “hang” with Tim Peeler and Ted Pope (only I didn’t know Ted was there until Scott told me). Next month Scott and Tim will be the featured readers.
That’s Scott Owens and Tim Peeler – Poetry Hickory at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse -6:30 pm October 14.
I got a copy of Scott Owens newly published book Fractured World, (scroll down) just out from Main Street Rag and a copy of John Amen’s More of Me Disappears. Also, John’s newest CD Ridiculous Empire. Did I mention John also sang? Very nice. Very talented, multi-styled singer. Easy to listen to but sang songs that had meaning. John Amen is also the editor of Pedestal Magazine.
I also met Trisha Hart, another Mule poet. I asked her for more poems. Did I mention all of these poets have been in the Mule? Even me—back in the day, that is, before I became Poetry Editor.
Fun, fun night. Thanks to all.
There were many mentions of the Dead Mule last night. Mentions of Valerie MacEwan, editor and publisher, and other Mules.
Our readings, approximately 30 minutes each, will be followed by a 30 minute Open Mic. For additional information or to register to read in the Open Mic contact Scott Owens: email@example.com.
Owens, Catawba Valley Community College Visiting Writer for 2008 and Founder of Poetry Hickory, has made the Open Mic a regular part of Poetry Hickory due to popular demand. All Poetry Hickory readings are free and open to the public. For future reading see here. (scroll down)
“Love your neighbour as yourself” the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying: “My neighbours are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbour?” he ends the by asking: “Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?” The neighbour, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbour is the one who crosses the road for me!
On the Path to Jericho
Then on the path to Jericho,
I’m plagued by uncertainty,
“Is the man wearing a top coat
my neighbor?” A girl nudges me,
startles me with gentleness. We dance.
And the way she tells the story:
No one dances alone. “Include
is a verb,” she explains.
“Am I wearing the clothing of a liar?”
I ask. Thankfully, she does not answer.
First published In the Arms of Words: Poems for Tsunami Relief, limited edition, FootHills Publishing,(June 2005),and In the Arms of Words: Poems For Disaster Relief, Sherman Asher Publishing (October 2005)