End of the Road

photo

End of the Road (2002)

Neither expected nor sought, truth arrives.
One phrase, a minute turn of the

wrist, and the beginning reverses itself, becomes
vessel versus point, illuminating

the reach: one sign, two paths. The agave.
How far we’ve come to affect this place.

Last season the flowers were gray and we knew nothing.
Even the stones quivered with laughter.

And then it rained. And the creeks rose, and the bedrock
appeared as if to say your efforts lack

substance. Look underfoot. There lies the truth.
Neither expected nor sought, it arrives.

“End of the Road” last appeared here in April 2017.

eotr

Palinode (Texas, cedar, misery)

Palinode (Texas, cedar, misery)

More than repression, more than fate and the captive idiom. More
than denial. More than the juniper’s red wind, the grackles’ flocked
effervescence. More. My friend lives on clay and I, on stone. How
to express stability’s process, the jurisdiction of pollen? The warbler
suffers no choice but that of extinction; it requires. It breathes. It
feeds, it sings and yet we come to excision. Destruction, with no
thought to consequence. Wet clay expands. Stone is constant.

Stone is constant but harbors no thought to permanence. We are
its mineral, pressing for wisdom and the eternal: to gain entrance.
Look closely. The juniper berry is a cone whose scales have merged.
I seek space and find habitat bounded in half-truths and careless
talk as the north wind broadcasts microspores throughout my
neighborhood. Inhale and know the power of propagation. Helpless
in its path, we think only to escape.

We think only to escape and instead wear misery in the attempt.
Crusted eyes, raw throats. Diminished patience. Our neighbor
chain-sawed his female cedar years ago, but his discomfort continued
unabated. The Juniper Hairstreak butterfly overwinters as a chrysalis.
Golden Cheek Warblers nest among its limbs. I flavor food with its
berries, relish the shade in July, the fragrance, year-round. Celebrating
coexistence, we sneeze. My saw lies still.

Well Pump

Well Pump

To be within, yet without: the rootless seed.
Staring through glass, we see only the surface
sliced thin like cell-thick specimen slides.
I dream of knowing, of inclusion.
The well pump is fried, but only thieves
return our calls. How to deflect the lure
of complicity? Stack stone, observe clouds.
Tap the cistern. Absorb its hollow tune.

* * *

“Well Pump” first appeared in January 2018 in Amethyst Review.

Many thanks to editor Sarah Law for accepting it.

Prescribed

 

Prescribed 

Some seeds are buried, others scattered.

April’s wildflower reflects October’s rain.
Bluebonnet, fragrant gaillardia. Texas paintbrush.

Cause and effect is seldom so clear with people.

Left hand offers money, right strikes a match
and the voice sings praise without conviction.

Perhaps we are guileless,
and true motive lies in the completed deed,
underground or above,

blossoming or charred after the burn.

* * *

My poem “Prescribed” was featured in December 2017 at The Clearing, a British online magazine focusing on landscape.

Thanks to editor Michael Malay for taking this one.

My Poem, “Scarecrow Votes,” is Up at Vox Populi

My poem, ‘Scarecrow Votes,” is up at Vox Populi, alongside Jenne Andrews’ call for revolution. Trump’s horrific separation of families policy must end! Thank you to Michael Simms for responding and publishing the poem so quickly.

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

Dear Ken: I’m fixated on open faucets and drained tanks,
on cracked PVC and browned grass, denial and what’s to
come, thinking of old dogs and accusations and how
the morning’s lopsided beginning has wrung out every
shred of positive emotion absorbed overnight. Then
a pinpoint emerges, swelling, until I can see, as through
a spidery windshield, tomorrow and its improbabilities.
Last weekend I built a window screen to exact measurements,
only to discover the sill tilted on the north by a quarter-inch,
and in order to install the damned thing I had to shorten
its right side, ruining the rectangle. Perfection eludes me,
even when guided by tape and square, especially in this
climate of exacerbated deterioration, which has not, alas,
excluded me – sciatic nerve, shoulders, knees, hands, etc.
But enough whining. Tea leaves predict that in a few hours
I’ll cross the creek trickling over the road, check the cisterns
and drop off tomorrow’s drinks before heading home to
swat mosquitoes and grill sage-rubbed pork kebabs while
sipping hoppy brews. That’s as far into the future as I
care to venture. The Cowboys drafted a lineman named
Taco, the weeds need mowing and my belly says noon
is fast approaching. I’d like carnitas, but have only rice
and beans, which probably signifies something far deeper
than my conscience will admit, trials I’ll never face. A
thunderstorm looms in the forecast, but my left ankle says
it ain’t happening. What do your mended bones claim?
Mine usually plead the fifth, but hey, they’re careful,
these days, and with good reason. Take care. Bob

* * *

“Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past” was featured at Vox Populi in December 2017.

While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me

 

While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me

And having no other paper at hand,
I scrawl on a dollar bill, “I want to speak
the language of smoke.” My invisible friend
interrupts. That is a white man’s dilemma.

 At least you have a dollar and a pen.
“But I’m only half-white,” I reply, “with half
the privilege.” Then you must bear double
the burden,
he says. This version of math

twists my intestines into a Gordian knot,
as does the concept of half equals twice,
or in terms I might better comprehend,
one beer equals four when divided by color

or accent and multiplied by projection.
The unsmiling waitress delivers my rib-eye
as I’m dressing the salad, and the check appears
just after the first bites of medium-rare beef

hit my palate, certainly before I can answer the
never-voiced question “would you like dessert?”
Cheese cake, I would have said. Or cobbler. And I
seldom turn down a second beer. This too, I’m told,

is another example of my unearned entitlement. I
contemplate this statement, scribble a few other
phrases on bills, drop them on the table, and walk out,
wondering which direction to take, which to avoid.

* * *

“While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me” was a finalist last fall for the Slippery Elm Prize in Poetry. It was published in Slippery Elm (print only) in December 2017. You may be amused to hear that last October I had lunch in Bandera with one of the other finalists in this competition, but not at the restaurant featured in the poem. The photo is of a local bar, not the eatery, but it offers some of the flavor of the town.