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.

Petition for the Virgin Mary to Appear to Two Boys in a Haymow Outside Lena, Illinois

May 30, 2015

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PETITION FOR THE VIRGIN MARY TO APPEAR TO TWO BOYS IN A HAYMOW
OUTSIDE LENA, ILLINOIS

Blessed Lady, if you are going to appear
anywhere, appear here and appear now,
in this haymow and to these two boys
looking for the litter of kittens they know
are in here because they can hear them
meowing for their mother, who's hidden
them and gone out hunting for field mice.
Appear in such a way that even the pigeons
quit their endless peregrinations from one
beam to another, and astonish the owls
so they cease asking their round questions
of damp ash and snow. And even if no
one believes the boys when they come
running towards the house, screaming
about a woman in the haymow wearing
all white, at least they won’t be so
heartbroken later when they find
she has moved the kittens one by one,
by the skin of their necks, someplace else.

Petition for the Virgin Mary to Appear to Two Boys in a Haymow Outside Lena, Illinois

May 30, 2015

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PETITION FOR THE VIRGIN MARY TO APPEAR TO TWO BOYS IN A HAYMOW
OUTSIDE LENA, ILLINOIS

Blessed Lady, if you are going to appear
anywhere, appear here and appear now,
in this haymow and to these two boys
looking for the litter of kittens they know
are in here because they can hear them
meowing for their mother, who's hidden
them and gone out hunting for field mice.
Appear in such a way that even the pigeons
quit their endless peregrinations from one
beam to another, and astonish the owls
so they cease asking their round questions
of wood ash and snow. And even if no
one believes the boys when they come
running towards the house, screaming
about a woman in the haymow wearing
all white, at least they won’t be so
heartbroken later tonight when they find
that, amidst all the excitement of the news
stations and the first pilgrims, she moved
the kittens one by one, by the skin
of their necks, someplace else.

Drone

May 29, 2015

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DRONE

Defined as:

To make a sustained deep murmuring,
humming, or buzzing sound, to talk
in a persistently dull or monotonous tone,
to live in idleness like a drone bee
(the male of the honeybee that develops
from an unfertilized egg, is larger
and stouter than the worker, lacks
a sting, takes no part in honey gathering
or care of the hive, is of use to the colony
only if a virgin queen requires insemination),
to pass or proceed in a dull, drowsy,
or uneventful manner, to utter or pronounce
with a drone, to pass or spend
in idleness or in dull or monotonous activity,
an unmanned aircraft or ship
that is guided remotely.

Rhymes with:

zone, phone, hone, shown, lone,
flown, blown, stone, bone,
moan, sewn, prone,
condone, unknown,
atone.

Transient

May 28, 2015

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TRANSIENT

One summer night when
you were a child
a knock on the door
a friend of your older sister’s
traveling cross country
it was so late your mother
had to heat up a plate for him
which he shyly accepted
his hunger obvious to everyone
your mother tried to stay up
stifling her yawns
but your father
too weary for company
simply shook his hand
and wished him goodnight

in your room you put your ear
to the heat register but their
voices were distorted
in the chimney of tin
crabwalking down the stairs
a step creaked you were certain
they’d heard you but
you found them
absorbed in one another
sitting crosslegged by the fire
passing a tall green bottle
back and forth whispering about
something of great importance
though you couldn’t tell
were they excited or scared

you watched him reach into his bag
pull out a flannel shirt
and unwrap a hatchet
you watched your sister
reach over and pull his long black hair
back from his neck
as if he had asked her to
behead him she leaned
forward kissed the scar
and you knew something
had happened since the last time
she saw him something he was
trying to explain having to
do with his father and why
he couldn’t stay

The Afterlife

May 27, 2015

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THE AFTERLIFE

Walking in the woods

I had the feeling

I had already died

and was the trees'

memory of me

walking through them

The Bell

May 27, 2015

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THE BELL

The otherworldly kindness
of the little collar bell
the cat has to wear now

after the unthinkable
cruelty of the finch murder.
She brought the bird to us

as if she thought we might
be proud of her.
The irremediable color

of the finch's blood
in her white fur. Now,
the singular sweetness

of the bell, warning away
every winged thing.
The cat has taken

to lying in the shade.
She'll grow old and fat,
bring us nothing

but her hunger and the silver
sound of the bell
we'll bury her with.

The Innocence of Racehorses

May 25, 2015

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THE INNOCENCE OF RACEHORSES

Long before the garland of roses,
before the jockey stands up in the stirrups,
sometimes even before the whipping stops,
they get a look about them,
as if they've already forgotten the mile
and a quarter race they've just won.

Already it has begun to mean more to us
than it ever could to them,
and as the owner and trainer and jockey
take turns talking, their peaceable minds
are already turning to hay, which is why,
at the ceremony, they try nibbling the roses.

Ghazal

May 25, 2015

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GHAZAL

Life came rushing up to me this morning
with all my problems in her hands.

I looked around for something for her
to put them in that wasn't my hands.

An egg carton, a mason jar, a shoe
box, a pillow case, anything but my hands,

but she refused everything. I gave up
trying to find something and put my hands

in my pockets but she pressed herself
against me, said, "Show me your hands."

As if they were no longer mine, as if they had
heard and were obeying her, my hands

came out of my pockets. Curled tight
into fists, like flowers at dawn my hands

opened to accept what life had to offer me.
She placed my problems into my hands

like potatoes you'll have to cut the green
spots out of and said, "Austin, your hands

are shaking. Every morning it's like this and
it's a shame. You have such beautiful hands."

The Wristwatch

May 25, 2015

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THE WRISTWATCH

Time is led by its interrogators
into a round room with a domed glass ceiling.
Ranged along the wall, strange numerals stand,
mossy columns salvaged from some forgotten god’s temple.
In the center of the room, on a small table,
rest two black hands, cut off at the wrists,
frozen in the pose of a pianist’s
the moment before the crescendo.
The hands are so black it is as if they’ve been caught
touching death’s hair. They look
about to scuttle away, creepy
as a spider on the bare flesh of someone sleeping.
And Time, arrested near the border
where it had been living far from man,
like a saint praying in a cave, is made
to put the black hands on.
They go on easy, like shackles,
like the gloves of your dead grandfather.
And Time is wearing them still,
conducting a symphony it cannot hear
like Beethoven in his last years,
for the children outside the round room,
whose faces Time will never see
but who, upon being born,
will be made to dance to its music.

Last Night

May 21, 2015

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LAST NIGHT

I had a nightmare that the married translators of my favorite Russian novels, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, were getting a divorce.

I was inconsolable.

“You can’t!” I cried out, kneeling on the floor of the 19th century drawing room. “Who will translate Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych?”

“We already have,” Richard mumbled, pacing before the hearth.

"Larissa? Larissa!…” I shouted.

She raised her eyes from the paper-strewn table and said, "What is it?"

“Larissa, please, you two have to stay together. You’re my favorite translators!”

She tossed her pen down and said, “I can’t make sense of any of this, can you, Richard?”

“It’s all legalese," he said, walking over and leaning over his soon-to-be ex-wife. "What does this mean, 2B?”

“Is there coffee? You," she said, pointing at me, "Yes you, the one dreaming us. Dream up some coffee so we can finish sundering this bond forever.”

Street Performer: Asheville, North Carolina

May 20, 2015

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STREET PERFORMER: ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

She stands completely still and completely
silver: in her silver hands she holds silver
drumsticks: the space between their tips
and the silver skin of her drum betrays her
heartbeat, otherwise I might believe that
she was a statue. On a silver box draped
in silver cloth, her feet are bare and silver.
Silver her ears, silver her lips, silver her
hair. Her dress is silver, the pleats
like long knives: if, careless, I were
to brush my arm against one I am sure
I would bleed. I throw three quarters
into her silver pail and her silver eyelids
tremble open heavily like the wings
of a housefly who's flown into paint.
By now I've slipped back into the crowd,
but her eyes accuse me of being the one
who woke her. They're the brown of rivers
after spring rains, the sole silverless thing
about her. I feel the way I felt when I
was a child and my persistent curiosity
overthrew every bastion of mystery.
She plays taps, a staccato battle-rattle,
but the weight of all that silver exhausts her,
and her head nods, her eyelids close,
and a boy asks his father for a quarter.

Cicadas

May 20, 2015

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CICADAS

We found their shells in the oldest oaks,
backs blown open where they’d fled themselves.
That was all that remained of them, like the clothes
of the girl the search party finds hanging
on a black branch, white clothes
they bring back to her mother, folded.
There was always a moment before
we touched them when we’d loom
near to stare into their amber chambers
as once, in a museum, I stared
into a suit of armor through the hole
the sword had bored. But in the shells
not a darkness but a light like that which
I imagine seethes through the keyholes
of treasure chests in sunken ships. No matter
with what care we picked them they always
left a hooked leg or two in the bark
like the crampons of climbers who
have fallen. Sick now in a city far
from where I like to imagine the shells
of the ones we never found are
still clinging to the highest branches,
I wish I could leave my body
blown open upon this bed
for a boy to find and carry
up to a farmhouse cupped gently
in his hand so as not to crush it.

Hunting

May 19, 2015

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HUNTING

When the season opens
like a carnivore flower

I hunt in the old way.
If a deer offers me

his body I accept it
the way you accept

advice from an elder.
If the other hunters

could see the way
I dance and sing

they would laugh
themselves hernias.

Resourcefulness

May 17, 2015

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RESOURCEFULNESS

Hard oak

Dull axe

Sharpie

Sundial

The Astronaut's House

May 16, 2015

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THE ASTRONAUT'S HOUSE

in the dark
kitchen, something lunar
about the jars of flour and sugar:
from them comes a bluish light
like the light that falls on the face
of the astronaut’s son, lying wide
awake under a ceiling covered
in star stickers that glow
in the dark
kitchen, something lunar
about the jars of flour and sugar:
from them comes a bluish light
like the light that falls on the face
of the astronaut's son, lying wide
awake under a ceiling covered
in star stickers that glow
in the dark
kitchen, something lunar
about the jars of flour and sugar:
from them comes a bluish light
like the light that falls on the face
of the astronaut's son, lying wide
awake under a ceiling covered
in star stickers that glow
in the dark

Wounded Men Seldom Come Home to Die

May 16, 2015

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WOUNDED MEN SELDOM COME HOME TO DIE*

And this is why: when a wounded man comes home
to die (which is seldom) he comes in through the summer
kitchen, carrying his face before him like an armful
of kindling a visitor carries in on his way to the house,
nervous about asking if he can stay a few days longer.
His mother faints. He catches her and lays her down
gently on the linoleum. When his sister comes in
from feeding hogs to find her brother at the table
with his long legs kicked out and their mother senseless
on the floor, the poor girl sighs and unbuttons his shirt.
The wound isn’t visible yet, it’s still drifting around
inside his body, bouncing under his skin like a man
swimming under ice, trying to find the place
where he fell through. When the wound surfaces
that is when she’ll know whether or not he’ll live
but for now his eyes are calm and blue. He asks her
what boys have been bothering her. She tells him
she figures she can take care of herself. When their mother
comes to, she insists she’s fine and puts some coffee on.
As she pours him a cup from way high up like a waitress
she says, “I’m glad you come home. Now I’m going
up and lie down awhile. You two catch up. I never meant
our family to be all scattered like this.” Through the ceiling
they can hear her softly sobbing and know she’s lying
up there on her back with her sleep mask on. There’s blood
soaking through his white t-shirt now and his sister says,
“Let me see.” She blushes and says it isn’t so bad. He agrees.
They talk late into the night, knowing he’s going to die.
She leads him up to his boyhood bedroom, tells him there
are clean sheets on the bed. He thanks her and tells her
he thinks he might sit on the porch awhile, watch fireflies
like they used to when they were little. In the morning
the bed hasn’t been slept in and on the kitchen table
the only note he’s left are a few fireflies in a Mason jar,
holes punched in the tin lid so they all can breathe.


*A line from Stephen Crane’s The Black Riders

Outside the Anne Frank House

May 14, 2015

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OUTSIDE THE ANNE FRANK HOUSE

The line is long, so long
it bends at the corner
like starlight in a telescope,
wrapping around the block.
Committed but restless, we
bend knees, shift weight
from foot to foot. People
talk in the little clusters
they came with. This is not
a place where a stranger
would think to turn and say
something to a stranger.
A few clusters leave. All
of a sudden they decided
they would rather be
somewhere that isn't here,
and that's where they go.
The line lurches forward.
Somewhere in the museum
they have built to house it
is the house itself. I love it
already, its bricks, its wood,
the very woods and mountains
its materials came from.
It is still doing what it has
always done: take people in.
A cold wind blows down
the Prinsegracht canal.
People unzip their bags,
pull coats out by the sleeve.
The couple in front of me
leave. I watch them turn
to one another and agree.
It isn’t worth the wait,
their eyes seem to say.
They’ll find a café,
come some other time.
I stay. I shuffle forward
with the others, thinking
of all the lines we form
on earth and what for.

That Particular Village

May 13, 2015

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THAT PARTICULAR VILLAGE

"On October 22nd and 23rd, 2002, U.S. warplanes strafed the farming village of Chowkar-Karez, twenty-five miles north of Kandahar, killing at least ninety-three civilians. When asked about the incident at Chowkar, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, 'I cannot deal with that particular village...'"

Look, here's the thing. I can deal with that
particular village about as well today
as I could deal with it yesterday, which is
to say, I cannot deal with that particular
village at all. Other villages I can deal with,
have dealt with and will deal with in the future,
but not that particular village. Look, think
of the situation I'm in like this: I'm a tightrope
walker in a circus tent in a prairie town in 1911.
I perform with my wife and without a net.
Unbeknownst to me my wife, who happens
to be a very beautiful woman, has fallen
in love with the tiger tamer. On this night,
while walking the tightrope towards her
where she stands on the platform, I see
she has a big pair of golden garden shears
and she's preparing to cut the rope. Tell me,
what do I do? If I start to scream,
she'll cut the rope. If I say nothing,
she'll cut the rope. I can't deal with that
village in particular because I really
have to try and focus on sinking this
putt. I can't deal with it today because
tomorrow I'm flying to Chicago to participate
in the Associated Writing Programs Conference.
I've been invited to appear on a panel called:
“Tangled Umbilical: What We Can Learn
From Paying Attention to Syntax in Political
Discourse and How We Can Use It to Write Better
Flash Fiction.” I can't deal with that particular
village because I was born in 1932. I cannot
deal with it today or yesterday because
my senior thesis at Princeton was entitled
“The Steel Seizure Case of 1952 and Its Effect
on Presidential Powers.” I can't deal with it
because I have three children and six grand
children none of whom will have to go
to the holy wars. I can't deal with that village,
that particular village, right now because I live
in Mount Misery, the former plantation
house where a young Frederick Douglass
was sent to have his teen spirit broken
by the brutal slaveholder Edward Covey.
I can't because one day, after being beaten
many times by his master, Douglass fought
off Covey's cousin and then Covey himself
in the very yard where my wife grows camellias.
I can't because Douglass was never assaulted
by Covey again. I can't deal with that particular
village in this life nor shall I be made to answer for
what happened there in the next. Certain things
about my past make it impossible for me
to deal with it: when I was little I was an Eagle
Scout, I wrestled in high school, I didn't graduate
from Georgetown Law. Nixon called me
a ruthless little bastard. I sold the company
I was CEO of to Monsanto for $12 million.
I cannot deal with that particular village.
I can't deal with it because once upon a time
I delivered a few pistols, some medieval
spiked hammers, and a pair of golden cowboy
boots to Saddam Hussein on behalf of
President Reagan. I can't deal with it because
a few years ago I had to make a special trip
to Abu Graib to personally turn the volume
of a Bach symphony up to make a man's ears
bleed more profusely. I can't deal because
on the afternoon of September 11th an aide
scribbled down in shorthand what I was
saying on the phone: “Best info fast —
Judge whether good enough hit Saddam
at same time — not only Bin Laden —
Need to move swiftly — Near term target
needs — go massive — sweep it all up
— Things related and not.” I can't...Look...
That particular village? That particular one.

Elegy

May 12, 2015

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ELEGY

We were the outcasts of our MFA program.
I was too quiet and he was too cocky.
We'd drive to one of those little towns
that surround all college towns, a town
of one tavern, with a sign above the bar
that said: "In bad weather, take shelter
in the urinal – it hasn’t been hit
in years!" We laughed trying to imagine
the professor we hated walking in there,
ordering a glass of cabernet, and reading
Benjamin in the booth by the window.
We loved that the talk was all Nascar
and the anatomy of the combustion engine.
Drunk, we'd scribble poems on the thin
square napkins. At the end of the night
we let them fall to the floor to be swept
away with the peanut shells. I know
the bartender read them because when
we walked in she'd say, "Here come
the poets." He dropped out at the end
of our first year, after challenging the prof
we hated to a duel. A pasture he knew of,
pistols, seconds, ten paces. Everyone
laughed, but I knew he was serious.
And that was where they found him.



Haiku

May 11, 2015

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HAIKU

Summer dusk -
young lovers flirting
on the propane tank.

*

Museum in winter -
in the dinosaur skeleton,
a few bones missing.

*

Summer Sunday -
a tourist asks
how much for the scythe

*

He touches her
leg she
cracks her knee

*

Last night on earth -
the astronaut's penis
doesn't want to go

Coming Upon an Abandoned Truck In the Missouri Woods

May 11, 2015

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COMING UPON AN ABANDONED TRUCK IN THE MISSOURI WOODS

I imagine him coming down here
years later, downshifting the burned-out
clutch of days to find again what
he abandoned when he was my age:

blood on the passenger seat headrest
faded to orange where, after starring
the windshield, she rested her head
back like to watch television.

Saint Hyacinth

May 9, 2015

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SAINT HYACINTH

You carried your secret
faith through the Imperial household
like the bowl of warm rosewater
you brought to Trajan’s chambers
while the lambs were being slaughtered.

Mealtimes you were a magician
with your napkin. It appeared to others
you had impeccable manners,
wiping your mouth after every bite
as the cloth filled with half-chewed meat.

Later, you’d shake it out for the crows
who’d learned to gather under your window.
But one night the Chamberlain, suspicious
of your thinness, demanded you open
the napkin. The meat was still warm

from your mouth. You didn’t deny
you were a Christian. Your torture
was gentled somewhat because you were
only twelve and they didn’t want to kill you
too soon. Because all they fed you was

the meat of sacrificed animals, you refused
to eat. So light had you become
in your starvation you hovered
above the dungeon floor, your chains
so taut they groaned. When you finally left

your body, they couldn’t believe
how easy it was to carry. Now
your skull is crowned and your skeleton
drenched in jewels and gold
in the Church of the Assumption.

The flesh with its wounds has washed
away and you lie on your side as if to say:
“See how I starved myself down into bone?
Go back where you come from and
love something so much you disappear.”

To Go to Freeport

May 8, 2015

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TO GO TO FREEPORT

To go to Freeport, you must leave
The road of concrete and take
The road of wheat. You must go
By waterway, by deer trail,
Along the little mud-colored
Creeks, across country, must show
The redwing blackbirds you too
Are wounded and bloodied,
Must suffer the stigmata
Of barbwire. Do not ask anyone
The way to Freeport. They will
Point you in the wrong direction.
Do not trust the bullet-riddled
Signs. The map you carry
Is obsolete. Better to burn it.
No one wants you to visit
Freeport, the town itself
Least of all. All it wants is
To die in peace. The stores
Are closing like flowers at dusk.
The prairie is taking back
Its old territory, headquartered
In the cemeteries. Who are you
To disturb such processes?
This is why no one will help you.
Even the dead will whisper,
“Go away.” Approaching porches,
People will leave rockers rocking,
Lock deadbolts, draw curtains.
Do you really want to go
To Freeport? There is nowhere
To eat there, nowhere to drink,
No one to talk to. There are no
Books in the library. In the park
The painted horses go round
And round but there
Are no children to ride them.
They’ve shut the waterfall off.
The bars are dark and empty.
The bartenders spend their time
Swatting flies. In the theater
They play old movies for no one.
No one sweeps up the popcorn.
I should warn you that if you
Go to Freeport it is possible
You may never leave. You may
Find yourself standing behind
The counter of the pawn shop,
Examining a pearl found
In the mud of the Pecatonica.
The man who brought it in
Will be gone when you raise
Your eyes to tell him it’s worthless.
Now you’re in the little booth
Watching the painted horses
Go round and round.
Now you’re giving a tour,
Talking about the debate
Between Lincoln and Douglass
In 1858, the trees listening
Out of politeness, the bronze
Statues of the debaters
Turning green with boredom
And time. Now you find
Yourself in the library, shelving
A book eighty years overdue.
In the bar you don’t even bother
Swatting flies. They land lightly
In your arm hair. You let them
Live on in their generations.
You cannot remember
Coming here, or by what roads.
One day you deliver a letter
To yourself. Someone wants
To know how to get to Freeport.
You stand in your bedroom
Window in the evening,
Wondering whether
You should answer them.
Finally, you sit down
At your desk, and by the last
Light begin to write:
“To go to Freeport, you must leave
The road of concrete and take
The road of wheat…”



The Nativity Set

May 7, 2015

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THE NATIVITY SET

I lift the lid off the box
And here they are, wrapped
In last January's obituaries
Like the pears the poor painter
Comes for after market
For his still lives,
The browner the better.

Atomic Fireball

May 6, 2015

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ATOMIC FIREBALL

The quiet boy in the back of the bus
has been handed something red
he doesn’t understand.

The bully who gave it to him
has never once been kind to him,
and so this gift, this smooth red ball,

is more than just a piece of candy:
it is an apology for every time
the bully whispered “You stink,”

every time he pinched his nose
and said, “Oink, oink, oink,”
every time he called him “Miss Piggy”

in the presence of Laura Bauman.
No longer is it the quiet boy’s fault
his father is a hog farmer.

“What are you waiting for?”
the bully says. “If you don’t want it
I’ll give it to somebody else.”

The others watch with their chins
resting on the backs of the seats
as the boy puts it in his mouth.

Before he can spit it out
his face is red and his eyes are
watering. Under their laughter

he hears the bully say,
“Now you know how we feel
when you raise your hand.”

The Thing

May 5, 2015

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THE THING

After it took the farmer’s arm off
nobody would go near the thing,
as if it weren’t to be trusted now.

But it couldn’t just be left sitting there,
the neighbors said, so they hired a guy
to come out with a backhoe and bury it.

When he came home from the hospital
the first thing the farmer wanted to know
was what a mound of dirt was doing

behind the shed. When she told him
they’d buried it, he said, “What the hell’d
they do that for? Worked, didn’t it?”

Chekhov

May 4, 2015

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CHEKHOV

They say you may have caught
tuberculosis from the peasants
who came to your estate to be

seen by you. Hearing them coughing
in the hall you put down your pen
and rose from your desk. Short

of breath they had traveled all
night to arrive by dawn, drawn
by rumors of your kindness.

Warming the stethoscope
in your hands while the old farmer
bared his chest, your character

stood patiently on the doorstep,
holding a letter of introduction
you had yet to write. The longer

you spent away from the story
the harder it would be to finish it
but the hall was long, the line

out the door and you would turn
none away, knowing how far
they had come, how it must

have comforted them
to have someone listen
to their lungs and say it

sounded better than it sounded,
inhaling their sighs of relief,
saying, softly, “Next.”

The Bird

May 3, 2015

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THE BIRD

The bird that hit my windshield
kept flying into me while I carried her
up into the mountains her body
was going flatter and flatter
under the wheels of big rigs gunning
it for Billings in Sheridan a town
named after a man who spent
his retirement killing Indians
I squeegeed her blood off the wind
shield the better to see where I was
going by the time we hit Yellowstone
she had burrowed into my heart
we made camp together made supper
what I ate sustained her the fire
we made together warmed her wings
when I sang she sang also I felt
guiltless as Sheridan coming home
from the Plains his stars doubled
in the mirror the moment before
he took all his clothes off
covered his wife’s mouth
with his it wasn’t until I lay down
under stars spinning from wine
that the bird wanted out
I ached all over broke
into a sweat I thought for sure
I would die it was only after I had
fallen asleep that she found her way
out the way a bird will find its way
out of a house it has flown through
a broken window into

Sunflowers

May 2, 2015

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SUNFLOWERS

Mecca of sunflowers,
devastated revenants,
all keeled over
the same wound -

if I could stop this train I would
walk amongst you,
lifting your heavy faces,
whispering sympathies.

Nightfall would find me
kneeling before the least of you,
and together we'd endure
the darkest hours.

First Night in France

May 1, 2015

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FIRST NIGHT IN FRANCE

Pulling apart the pullet
I bought at market
by pointing because
I don't know French.
Stem of my wine glass
smeared with oil.
Across the rooftops,
clay chimney pots
and laundry airing.
That time of evening
when women wearing
one earring
turn to their husbands
and smile.

The Crutches at Lourdes

May 1, 2015

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THE CRUTCHES AT LOURDES

They came here two by two, carrying their pilgrim
between them, asking one another in snide whispers

ahead and behind the foot, "Where does he think he's going?"
or, "How quickly she moves today, as if she didn't need us."

Left standing by the thousand now in the cool of the grotto,
they remember how ungratefully the lame heaved them here,

how thankless the miraculously cured were towards they
who carried them miles and years and never once complained

about being stuffed in an armpit all their lives. The canes
are even more morose: they have no companion to keep them

company when night falls and the healed have gone off weeping
under their own power. The only way these crutches stand

a chance to walk again is if a pilgrim who comes here is
not only not healed, but suffers more and more the lower

he lowers himself into the waters his daughters
claimed would cure him, so that he goes from merely

crippled to totally lame and, to go home, has to take up a pair
of crutches and leave behind his beloved swan-head cane.