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Poem-a-Day

The Orchard

The Orchard
 
Someone, fucking done with birds,
Took the time to cover the branches
Of the orchard trees in metal ducting,
 
Like the arms of young waiters asked
To cover up their sleeve tattoos.
When they wing close, the crows scare
 
Themselves away, which means more
Fruit for the couple who own the orchard
To step on and regret not picking.
 
The trees are the first boys with glasses,
The first girls with noticeable breasts.
They're mad to have to stand here
 
Like this, waiting for the photographer to
Take the damn picture
Already, blinking in the flash.

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The Farmer Suicide Conference

The Farmer Suicide Conference

 

It was held somewhere in Andhra Pradesh,

  On a campus that felt abandoned, the fig trees

White with dust, the green buildings seeming 

 

To tremble in the sun, as if they hadn't decided

  Yet whether to be. But we entered them as if

They were real and went up the stairs

 

To classrooms in which papers were presented,

  The oscillating fans making the pages flutter

In the hands of professors of statistics

 

And microeconomics and political science,

  Lithe, mustachioed men who could sit on their heels

For hours. At night, we gathered on the porch

 

Of a house that might have been 

  A farmhouse had it been out in the country,

Drinking big bottles of Kingfisher beer.

 

By way of explanation as to why I was there,

  I must have told them about my father who,

Right then, was waking up on the other side 

 

Of the earth to milk a hundred Holsteins, 

  And they must have known that, if I was there,

There was no danger of him killing himself.

 

I loved those professors who, when they agreed, 

  Would rock their heads from side to side,

Ear to shoulder, as if trying to clear them of water

 

So as to better hear each other, and who'd spend 

  Their whole careers toiling in the fields

Of forlorn Indian universities. I recognized them

 

As the bookish sons who'd left the farm but who

  Kept going back through math or poetry

Because even while we were drinking beer

 

A man was struggling to lift a plastic drum

  Over his head in order to pour the viscous red

Poison down his throat, committing suicide

 

By drinking pesticide, not to protest Monsanto,

  But because it was the deadliest thing

He had at hand. I think now of how when

 

His son turned him over, he must have

  Looked like those old women who smiled at me

In the street, their teeth stained red with betel leaf.

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Heat Lightning

Heat Lightning
 
Comes loping across the land sans thunder
And you're the boy it's coming towards
Sitting in the porch swing the chains groaning
In the eyehooks twisted deep into the boards
By your grandfather years before even your
Father was born your grandmother saying
"I'm worried they won't hold Bob" and your
Grandfather joking "They'll hold Bob
And Mary too" and she sighing and sitting
Down beside him wincing at their weight
Then beginning to trust it beginning to
Swing her pale smooth legs and he saying
"See?" and she looking up and smiling

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Cow Magnet

Cow Magnet
 
When a cow wouldn't eat
They'd make her
 
Swallow this big magnet
Shaped like a vitamin capsule
 
Checking first to see whether
She already had one inside her
 
By passing a compass
Under her belly
 
We picked them off the side
Of the metal filing cabinet
 
They were stuck to in order
To hold something cold and heavy
 
They were brand new
But they seemed corrupted
 
By where they were going
To be going soon
 
But they were proven
To save lives
 
The length of rusted wire
Or the roofing nail
 
That would have pierced
The wall of her heart
 
Would be drawn to
The magnet instead
 
That would happen
In the dark
 
Of an actual body
But we only really believed it
 
When the vet let us
Hold the compass

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Social Distancing in Retrospect

Social Distancing in Retrospect
 
It has been determined it isn't enough
To isolate oneself now 
And in the foreseeable future
But is becoming increasingly necessary 
To isolate oneself in the past as well.
 
Therefore, all citizens are hereby asked 
To close their eyes and remember 
All crowds of ten or more people 
One has ever found oneself in
And by an act of pure imagination 
 
Push those around you away 
To a distance of at least six feet
(Think of a grave's depth turned 
On its side and balanced between
Your shoulders and the shoulders 
 
Of those who surround you). 
All citizens are encouraged to please
Cooperate and follow best practices
When it comes to how
You used to live. In short, it is
 
Vitally important to never have been 
As close to one another as we were. 
Examples of social distancing
In retrospect include: Sitting alone
In the basketball bleachers.
 
Dancing by yourself at your brother's wedding.
Finding the emptiest car in that train
You took that summer from Venice
To Trieste. Refraining from reaching
For the stained-glass-stained hand
 
Your grandfather offered you that
Sunday morning at Mass. Give him instead
The sign of peace. It goes without saying
That, in the past, as now, try not to
Touch your face.

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