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Elegy for a Small-Town Waitress

She lived from cigarette

To cigarette. They looped
Bluely through her lungs
On break. She knew
The menu by heart
Like some she served
Knew the Gospel.
There weren't any specials.
If you asked if there were
You weren't from around there,
But then she knew that already.
She couldn't be rushed.
She suffered bad tips
Like a horse suffers flies.
She couldn't care less
What you left her.
She lived back of the diner
In a trailer a long-dead cook
Had pulled back under the pines.
It hadn't moved in so long

Everyone had forgotten it

Could. The years had taken
Aim at the tires,
Closed one eye,
Shot them out.
No one knew whether
She'd ever loved a man
Or been loved by one,
But she had a thing
For drunks and farmers.
She kept the dark
Little hearts
Of their coffees warm.
When she died
They named their first
Special after her
To give men a reason
To keep saying Carolyn.

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He chose to keep his baseball mitt.
He hung it from a nail in the garage
Where he knew he wouldn't see it
Often. An anaphylactic hand, it was
Hideous, but it comforted him.


She chose to keep his favorite shirt.
It had runs in it like old shirts get.
She kept it folded in a bottom drawer.
Once a season she washed it
And hung it on the line with theirs.


Sometimes he would see the shirt.
Sometimes she would see the mitt.
But neither said anything
To the other about it.

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The Tree

A tree like one of those

Old cane wheelchairs

With a wind in it like a man

Crippled by polio as a boy

Dreaming of walking.


What am I saying? 

There was no wheelchair, 

No crippled man, no polio,

No dreamt boy walking,

Just a tree and the wind.




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The Reenactor

Over a breakfast of salt

Pork and hard tack

She asks him is he going

To die today 

He tells her yeah but not 

Until the very end because 

He gets to carry the flag

In the final charge

At the door she asks him

Does he have everything

He needs - ramrod bayonet

Capbox canteen -

He checks himself

As if checking

For a wound

Some days he leaves


Doesn't die comes home

Other days he leaves

Dies comes home

Like any war

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From His Online Dating Profile I've Learned That Death

Wears a wristwatch that's missing its hands.
Wears a white suit stained ochre at the cuffs.
Collects wheat-back pennies in thin blue books.
Loves the shadows of the blossoms more than the blossoms themselves.
Practices tossing softballs through a noose.
Never sleeps just blinks once or twice a day.
Owns an old motorcycle he'd like to tune up sometime.
Stuffs his ears with milkweed when he wants some damn quiet.
Reads the Bhagavad Gita on the toilet.
Writes at a school desk too small for him on which are scrawled cocks and names.
Climbs a bell rope for exercise.
Dreams of retiring to Italy to grow tomatoes and write opera reviews.
Is a virgin.
Reads poetry.
Has been known to steal a car and return it gleaming clean.
Wears shades that make him look like a real dick.
Buys the winning lottery ticket it so no one can win, never turns it in.
Sings hymns while splitting kindling, woefully off-key.
Picks up the phone sometimes and dials ten numbers just to hear someone say hello.
Enjoys long walks through cemeteries.
Had a dog once but then patted him on the head.
Smokes Lucky Strikes hence the ochre cuffs.
Keeps his checkbook balanced.
Took a cooking class once but started a grease fire.
Likes to go dancing but is a total klutz.
Drinks way too much.
Interested in a long-term relationship.

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How losses accrue

In a lifetime like snow


In a woodlot like shoes

Under the bed


And books

Friends write


When you haven't been

Thinking of them

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