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What the Tornado Said


I want you, wives of Kansas, to leave your beds
in which you lie sleepless beside your husbands
and spend the night with me instead.

Leave behind the tissues, novels and meds,
and throw the curtains and windows open.
I want you, wives of Kansas, to leave your beds

where your husbands sleep sound as the dead.
Leap from the windows like spring-born wrens
and come spend the night with me instead.

We'll rattle down the road like newlyweds.
I'm turning towards you now. Just say when.
I want you, wives of Kansas, to leave your beds
and spend the night with me instead.
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Adam and Eve
-ning fell.

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The axe that heats
the home one day
kills the chicken the next.
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After Pound


These pink blossoms on black branches;
Children we bombed posing on crutches.
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In some online search they find
the town his father's father's father
lived in before the Gold Rush made him
pull up stakes and go West to stare
into the stingy mirror of a pan, to try
being poor out there for a change.

And so they set out for Arkansas.
When they pull up in front of a house
not old enough to have been his
ancestor's, drowned in kudzu, it's not
the root of his family tree he finds,
but the dead branches of another's.
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Premature Will


The trees are turning
like an old man turning
finally to the heavy evening

work of drafting his will.
As he writes, hairline cracks
appear in the porcelain

of his life. The chair he sits in,
deeded to his son the writer,
almost refuses to hold him,

while the kitchen table
he writes on, deeded
to his daughter,

who seems destined
to have a large family,
aches to walk down

the road on its frail,
foal-like legs into her kitchen.
Every object he writes down

the name of is anxious
to begin its new life
with his children.

He is writing his will
as if he will die any day
now, but he will live

another twenty years,
confounded that things
he loves seem

to disobey him,
as if mad he is holding
on to them so long.
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Lucid in Harness


Worked to white lather,
their mouths frothing green
around the gnawed bits,
their nostrils velvet bells,
their lungs bellows blowing
on their hearts' smoldering
fires, still they are more
lucid in harness than
the man with snowflakes
in his lashes and reins gone
slack in his hands.
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Small-Town Law Office, Central Illinois


This town's sole lawyer dreams of being
allowed to prosecute and defend
the same man, pacing back and forth
before the rapt courtroom hanging
on his every word. Then dreams of being
the judge and all nine members of the jury.
Then dreams the jury hung, then dreams
the whole thing over again. This on afternoons
when all his cases are closed like flowers
before a killing frost and from the other room
comes the sound of his secretary typing,
her fingers ringless and furious. She dreams
of walking across America to deliver the letter
she is typing to the handsome and lonesome
lighthouse keeper. The letter says,
"You can come down now and marry
a woman far inland. For from now on
every ship is a ghost ship." At the end
of the day, leaving, the lawyer tells her
not to stay too late. She promises him
she won't.
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Kneeling Bus


A sign by the door
says this bus
is a "Kneeling Bus."
This bus kneels
at the filthy curbs
and gutters of the world,
kneels to me,
to you, to us.

I was feeling hopeless
walking to the stop
and now I'm not because
of how the bus kneeled,
like a girl late for Mass
who settles into the pew,
crosses herself quickly,
and kisses her fist.
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Writers Retreat


Why do writers retreat
from the world as if the world
were coming for them
in the night with pitchforks
and torches?

It is the world that retreats
from the writer.
Writers should go out
in broad daylight
shouting verses, stories.

Then, when the world
comes for them
with pitchforks and torches,
they can hide until the world
forgets what it's looking for.
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