Thursday, August 11, 2022

DAM

The dam, built on the downstream

End of town, chevron shaped,

Concrete, with blocks of broken

Concrete laced with rusted rebar

Below, to break up the flow

Of only an inch or two of water

(Though some 80 feet wide),

Muddy, greasy green and brown, 

That slid in a silken sheet over its brim.

We used to dare each other to walk

Across the top, on a foot’s width

Of flatness, the water boiling

Around our naked feet, slipping

With each step on a thin layer

Of algae. None of my friends fell,

Though many others had, breaking

Bones and stabbed by iron rods.

The sliding fall was fast. Some died.

(Today there are warning signs

And fences to forestall foolishness

Masquerading as youthful bravery.)

I tried it once and turned around

After shuffling only five feet across.

I suffered the humiliation of jeers,

Though my feat wasn't surpassed

By my peers. Like water, it passed.

I fished for carp beneath the dam

And forgot I might have joined them.

Friday, August 5, 2022

SKY

We grew up in a small town

Near the smoke, dirt, and rust

Of the factory across the river,

The mud and coke-filled waters,

The drowned dead Dutch elms

Fallen away from rooted ground,

The century old iron trestle

Fenced off from foolish divers,

Floating carp and suckers,

Still gasping, twitching,

Unable to just drown and die.

A mountain of discarded tires,

Seeping sulfur, so slow-burning

They hissed streams of boiled air.

Such we’ve done everywhere.

Look up. The sky, cloudy or

Cloudless, storm-clouded,

Or spiked with myriad lightning,

Transfigures all into a paradise.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Age of Aggravation


I can handle anxiety today

With a pill and a sip of water.

It comes from nowhere

And has little reason to exist.

Yea, I worry about this and that,

The bomb and global warming,

Without thinking, concentrating,

Like a deer in summer hiding

Its does though hunting season

Is an unrealizable future.

I like to think that all is well —

I mean the essential things,

From family to home and work —

I could explain why I’m right.

Then why is everyone so angry?

I refuse to recite the reasons.

They are invisible chimeras 

Of fear, corpses of inconsequence.

A few mad apples, rolling, legless,

Without sense or innocence,

Which won’t die before they rot.

What we used to call ideas

Are now ravenous ouroboros.

Oh, such satiety in aggravation! 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Bread

I drew bread from the shelf,

As so many thousands have,

A simple act for a simple meal.

I thought, from this one place

The uncountable have been fed,

From here, this grocery store,

Where the shelf is never empty.

And not just once — I have

Performed this act of grace

So many times myself, I wonder

That there’s any more for others.

Would I take the last loaf left?

We have all done far worse things.

It wouldn’t be a crime, of course —

Someone must be the last to eat.

I could say, “There’s more bread,

Perhaps, on shelves in other stores,”

Succumbing to rationalization.

There are now thousands lined up

Behind me, waiting for me to choose.

Has every one made up their mind?

If you were me, what would you do?


Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Error Of Innocence

It’s impossible, a contradiction

Of being, a false manipulation.

The mistake is in not knowing,

Like a child mimicking a curse,

Without any idea what it means.

At four I once told my brother,

“I wish you would go to hell,”

Then added, “no, don’t go to hell.”

Hell being no more than a word —

Yet I was vigorously punished

With a dozen stripes of a strap.

Some think we’re not born innocent,

Like the lion, the viper, or the lamb,

But by some withheld benediction

That can only be lost in the learning,

Which in itself taints the newly-wise.

The veins in a sick hand, febrile

And limp, are not guilty till lifted.

“The only truly innocent are dead,”

Some say. No greater lie ever said,

Because even they are burdened

By all that has come before. Not sin,

Not ignorance, but the spoken word,

The lie given breath willingly,

For no other purpose than my own.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Terror

A man in a dirty undershirt shouted

“Hey, kid!” from an upper window.

He held a pistol aimed at me and laughed.

This was on Main Street north of downtown

On a bright afternoon in August. I ran.

His laughter, like gun shots, followed me

Even around the corner. Why was he?

What was he? A drunk? A criminal?

Was he contemplating shooting himself

Because his girl had run away from him,

Her letter crumpled in his other hand?

Maybe the gun wasn’t real, a water pistol.

His laughter sounded friendly in my head,

Not taunting or meant to humiliate me.

He might have bumped his head on the sash,

Because he had gone quiet so abruptly.

Was he now bleeding, whispering curses,

And might come down and chase a kid?

It was the hottest, most humid day yet 

Of a long summer, and he was suffering,

Perhaps, so pointing a gun at anything

Took his corruption out of mind for a time,

The liquid and noisome, atom by atom,

Putrefaction of a few once-pure thoughts.

How can the mind see him now, 60 years

Later, when he’s been dead for 60 years?


Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Curvature: Speedboat

The river runs straight behind my home.

An iron factory spews coke down stream

And the ashes and willows were rippedw

Into the water by a derecho last summer.

I sit with my sister on a concrete pier.

Tomorrow is her wedding day — resignation

Is a philter poisoning her halting speech.

The speedboat comes like a swarm of bees,

Yellow with long stripes of scratched black.

A man waves as he passes and ignores

My gesture to move right to deeper water.

He passes under an iron trestle and turns about.

Now he’s much too close to his right shore,

Is soon airborne, a flightless bird in flight.

(He’s hit a partially submerged concrete pier.)

The boat, now vertical, drops him backwards

And hits him with its stern as it comes down.

We hear shrieks like seabirds, see flailing arms

Try to move him toward the opposite bank.

The boat is caught in a tight circle and strikes

The man twice more before moving downstream.

My sister and I push a canoe into the water 

And try to paddle toward the thrashing man,

But the churning, circling speedboat blocks us.

People on the other shore wade in and grab him.

He has no entrails and they watch him die.

The speedboat continues to circle — as my sister

And I return to dock — to circle and circle

Until it runs out of gas and courses straight,

As though the steering wheel has been unlocked

By the empty tank, unbending its curve,

So the boat can crash, vertical again, on land.