glean: 1. to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit. 2. to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers. 3. to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly. 4. to gather what is left by reapers.

The Plane

January 16, 2019

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THE PLANE

At recess certain of us walked by
The seesaw and the slide,
The swing set and balance beam,
To the far side
Of the playground where
A sheer, mirror-like plane
Of buffed steel rose
At a precipitous angle,
Its face smudged
With the fingerprints of
The innumerable boys who’d tried
And failed to ascend it.

Along the edges ran rails,
But to go up that way
Was unremarkable, like a route
Climbers have conquered time
And time before.

I remember
The heat and glare of the steel
In the warm months, the cold
Of its face in the cold.

Whoever designed the thing
Must have been acquainted
With disappointment.
I wonder if it gave them pleasure,
Deciding the precise angle
To set the thing at so as to make it
Impossible to conquer.

Older now, I think I know
Why we kept trying. For all that
It reflected (our faces, the sky)
The plane couldn’t remember us.
Our fingerprints were nothing
To it, just the pattern by which
It knew itself to be itself,
Fissures of a brain thinking
About the fissures of a brain.

And all of this was why
There was no shame in crying
Out halfway up, then sliding
Back down laughing.

A Visit from Vladimir

December 22, 2018

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A VISIT FROM VLADIMIR

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the White House
Not a leecher was stirring, not even a louse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with hair,
In hopes that Hope Hicks soon would be there;
The Trump kids were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of rubles danced in their heads;
And Melania in her ‘kerchief, and Donald in his cap,
Had just shut off their phones for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the East Lawn there arose such a clatter,
Donald rolled out of his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window he crept like a rash,
Tore open the slats and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of porn stars to objects below,
When, what to his reptilian eyes should appear,
But a miniature troika, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so bald and so sere,
He knew in a moment it must be Vladimir.
More rapid than Novichok his colluders they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Van Der Zwann! now, Papdoupolus! now, Manafort and Flynn!
On, Sessions! on, Gates! on, Butina and Cohen!
To the top of the North Portico! to the top of Trump’s wall!
Now hash away! hash away! hash away all!”
As toupees that before the whirring chopper blades fly,
When they meet with a gust, blow off the head of the guy;
So up to the house-top the colluders they flew,
With the troika full of Toys, and Vladimir too.
And then, in a golden tinkling, Donald heard on the roof
The prancing and guffawing of each little goof.
As he drew in his head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Vladimir Putin came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a hacker just opening his Mac.
His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a shell Co.
And the hair on his chest was as deep as the Vo;
The stump of a Trump he held tight in his teeth,
And the paunch it encircled his head like a sheath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl of John Kelly.
Trump was chubby and plump, an alt-right old elf,
And Vladimir laughed when he saw him, in spite of himself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave Donald to know he had a fuck-ton to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Invaded the Ukraine, then turned to the jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his troika, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the head of a missile,
But Donald heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Doors

December 21, 2018

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DOORS

Some with porcelain knobs cold
As eggs in the hand and veined blue.

Others kept shut with a length of wire
Wound round a big-headed nail.

Some with locks impregnable as the locks
On the diaries of nosey mothers’ daughters.

Others locked by nothing more than
A cinder block or a leaned two-by-four.

Some opening into living rooms hung
With bad paintings of rustic scenes.

Others opening into cellars where
Bags of seed and blocks of salt are stored.

Some swinging open on oiled hinges
Of intricate ironwork at the faintest touch.

Others hanging on one last hinge,
The screws rusted right out of the others.

Though all these doors are different,
Their thresholds are the same.

Someone is always just about to violate them.

Instructions for Bedding the Garden Down for Winter

December 20, 2018

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INSTRUCTIONS FOR BEDDING THE GARDEN DOWN FOR WINTER

When you realize you have begun
To neglect the garden, go down
To the garden you’ve neglected.

Bring a bowl for the bloated peas,
The woody carrots, the radishes
Split at the root. Twist the last

Shriveled tomatoes off the vines,
Then tear the vines off the trellises,
Then yank the trellises out, but don’t

Look up. Pick whatever green
Herbs remain and stuff
Your pockets full. Run the tools

That in your exhaustion you left
To rust up to the shed and fill
A five-gallon pail with motor oil.

Let them soak like teenage athletes,
But carry the hoe back down
To the garden. Don’t bother

Avoiding stepping on the beds.
You’ll make them again
Come spring. But don’t

Look up. Ball the white string
The sugar snaps climbed up
Up and toss it into the trees

For the birds to use in their nests.
Whatever anger you harbor
Against the president, take it

Out hoeing, then take your revenge
By sowing winter wheat
Liberally, suppressing all impulse

Towards reason. Find the rain
Gauge you stabbed into
The vampiric ground, then,

No matter how discolored the water,
Drink your measure, but close
Your eyes as you tip your head back.

Now. Only now you may look up
At the scarecrow. The burlap bag
Of his head. The tangled twine

Of his hair. The blue buttons you sewed
Onto round whites of cloth.
The two-dimensional, upside-down

Triangle of his nose. The thick red yarn
Of his lecherous mouth.
Remember how you considered

Whether to make him
Joyful or sorrowful and settled
On some state in between. Now,

With the scissors you found
In a kitchen drawer for this purpose,
You may proceed to snip

The zip ties that kept his straw hat
From blowing off his head.
Unbutton his flannel shirt.

Bare his garbage bag chest.
Undo his belt, cinched as tight
As it would go. Pull down his pants,

Exposing the pale PVC pipes
Of his legs, slipped over posts
You grunted to pound

Into wet ground, in April rain.
Pull off his boots. Now
Embrace him, hugging his body

In half, pulling the garbage bag
Of straw out of the pail
Of his torso. Tear his chest apart

As if searching for his heart, as if
He has one, then scatter
His body over the beds.

Put his shirt and jeans and hat
And boots in the pail and carry
The pail up to the house.

Wash the scarecrow’s clothes
And hang them in the closet.
Sit down and begin the poem.


The Greenhouse

December 14, 2018

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THE GREENHOUSE

So this is paradise, I would think
When, in late winter, we stepped out
Of winter and into spring.

The greenhouse was glorious,
But it was a rushed, undeserved glory.
To go in was to be catapulted

A month ahead and to leave
The overwintering land behind.
Through the fogged windows

The earth seemed cursed
So that I felt guilty, the same quality
Of guilt I felt after glimpsing

Our Christmas presents
Through the gap
Between sliding doors.

I wanted her to hurry up
And choose her herbs and geraniums
Already, her lily and tulip bulbs,

My guilt turning to longing
For the moment when
We stepped out of spring

And into winter
And I would think,
So this is the world.

Dehorning Steers

November 27, 2018

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DEHORNING STEERS

The vet would be at them for hours
With that cruel tool that gouged
The horns out of their skulls
So they wouldn’t gore one another
In the cold confinement shed.

Afterwards, tossing their heads
Over the feed bunk, each bore
Two ragged wounds dusted white
With lime, like they’d all been shot
Twice at close range and survived.

Trespassing Along the Apple River in November

November 27, 2018

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TRESPASSING ALONG THE APPLE RIVER IN NOVEMBER

I walk along the Apple River.
The dog runs ahead.
I come upon him lapping up
Frozen deer blood.
I imagine the boy in the stand,
His finger curled around the trigger,
The voice of his grandfather in his ear
From which he’s rolled the blaze
Orange stocking hat back
The better to hear him.
NOW.

The flood has altered the river’s banks.
I cannot cross where I always have
To crouch under the overhang
Fanged with icicles.
Stymied, I feel like a thief who has found
All the cards in the stolen purse
Have been canceled.
Deep pools have opened
Like new accounts.
Bass I caught in summer
Have grown huge and sullen.

I stand a long time on the bank
Watching the deposits and withdrawals
Of whitewater and leaves.
Had I thought to bring a wine glass
I could raise a measure of this river into the air
And see clear through it,
Thus, in a sense, crossing it after all,
But who on earth brings a wine glass to a river?

Breaking News

October 1, 2018

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BREAKING NEWS

That phrase implies
That at one time
The news was whole,
Like three robin’s eggs
In a nest so high up
In a tree you have to
Use your phone to see them.

My Grandfather's Level

September 22, 2018

MY GRANDFATHER'S LEVEL

My grandfather’s level
Tells me we live
In a crooked world.
I set it on the kitchen table
And the bubble bobs
To one end of its glass tube.
I set it on the windowsill
And it floats to the other
Like someone in the throes
Of a hard decision. I hold it
Up to the horizon: not even
The prairie is flat these days.
Finally, I balance it on my palm
Until the bubble is centered
Between the hashmarks.
Through this old tool
My grandfather is telling me that
The straightening-out
Of this crooked world
Is in our hands.

Make-Believe

September 6, 2018

MAKE-BELIEVE

The kids of the man who owns the salvage yard
Like to crawl into wrecks and pretend
To be husband and wife driving into town
On a Friday night. Some they can’t get into,
Even through the flanged hole the Jaws of Life
Tore in the roof, but they aren’t interested
In the cars that no longer resemble cars.
They’re drawn towards the ones that might
Conceivably still run, though this isn’t to say
There won’t be comets of blood on the dash
And shatter-stars in the windshield where
Their heads hit before they settled back
Like newlyweds watching television.
The boy always drives. The wheel doesn’t turn
As much as he wishes it would, but it serves
To keep them headed straight. The girl seems
Always to manage to find a tube of lipstick
In the glovebox. She flips the sun visor down
To apply it in the mirror, her face floating
Above the hairline crack. And when she smacks
Her lips like she’s seen girls do in sitcoms,
He takes his eyes off the road.