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 Day After the Election

November 22, 2016

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THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION

Nothing really changes. Old farmers sit
at the counter of the Oasis, drinking black
coffee out of cups with little looplike handles
they can't fit their swollen fingers through.

The waitress, overworked, puts her hair up.
The cook frowns at an order. Midmorning,
the last farmer turns down a warm-up,
turns up his collar, and walks out.

Noon. At the Subway men of all ages
shuffle along, telling the kid working
what they want on their sandwich, but by now
he has come to know what they love.

They eat and stare at the old maps
of New York City that paper the walls,
agreeing they would never want to live there.
Done with their subs, they brush crumbs

out of their beards and someone says
it's getting to be tavern-time. In the dark
bar the blonde beer stands in thin glasses,
saddened to be drunk. It has never been

anything but beer and now must be turned
into urine. Some throw darts. Some shoot pool.
Some just spin on their stools and watch
the news. At suppertime the place begins

to thin out, but the ones who know
they'll be back don't bother closing their tabs.
By eight the bar is full again. The talk
is of how maybe now someone will finally

put them to work and put her in jail.
But there is a fear too that what they wanted
and have received will fail them too.
Around midnight the last drinker turns

down another pint and walks out to his truck.
He knows he shouldn't drive but he knew this
last night too. Talk to him and he'd tell you
nothing really changes.

Fences

November 15, 2016

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FENCES

They were built before
I was born, some to separate
pasture from pasture in order
to clarify the prairie, others to bind
the farm around
and keep the world out
and the cows in.
Between the barbs designed
and patented to bloom
at intervals measuring
the span of a hand, redwing
blackbirds scolded
both nations of grass
the fence divided.
The posts that stood
where they’d been driven
knee-deep in limestone
had begun to lean
like men made to march
into the wind. And where
oak saplings had had
the audacity to grow
between the posts,
they had no choice
but to swallow the wire
into their bark, remembering
via rings the anniversary
of that first summer
they sensed the wire tapping
their bodies, then began,
tentatively, to accept it,
to take it in, feeling
the wire tauten
in the grip of their flesh
until they began
to believe they themselves
needed it to stand.

The Raccoon Tree

November 15, 2016

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THE RACCOON TREE

Winter to winter
we never quite knew
where it was,
and so would have to
find it again,
part of me doubting it
had ever existed.

But then there
it would be,
still with the dark
slit in its side,
darker if the ground
around was aglow
with snow.

We’d take turns
peering in, seeing
nothing but darkness
until our eyes adjusted.
Then would appear
a pair of green eyes,
then the telltale

mask and ringed tail,
this creature that
every winter hid
in fear of us boys
who came without fail
to fill its world
with breath and darkness.