Vanishing Point – a poem

Buddy splashing in the creek behind our house turns up an arrowhead
stubby quartz chipped to fit a twig pierce a buck’s tawny hide.

There that maw in the hillside where some ancestor mined for gold.
Rusted wire in the woods where sheep grazed in the day.

I went home to say goodbye to my brother who lay dying
in our late parents’ bedroom couldn’t take it had to go outside
and poking around in the back field where we’d raised chickens once
kicked up a rotten bucket a corroded canister what’s this?

So here I am at ten this July day swatting shuttlecocks with him
taking turns churning the salt and ice packed peaches and cream
until our father dips a finger licks the custard spits disgusted.
The can had leaked. See him set himself to hurl the whole
kit and caboodle over the back fence. (Mama opens a bag of Oreos.)

Well, here the moment lay weed sewn and half buried in the red earth
even that hand crank that had chafed my knuckles on its side.

In Virginia sometimes to stretch our legs
we wander Civil War battlefields visualize for instance
how close the farm boys crouched facing off like carnival ducks
at Cold Harbor. Once in a while you’ll see an old man in earphones
divining the lawn with his wand in search of a minie ball a button
some more than storied proof of one episode on this or that ageless acre.

And the night Mama died.  She’d been in coma for weeks
at the nursing home in Fork Union built on the farm where she was born.
I left there in tears before dawn stopped short in the parking lot
by a herd of cows chewing cud among the cars
a film overlay made of now and then
as if they’d wandered up from childhood to low her on.

Buddy cocks his head to wonder why I linger in the ankle deep stream
with this little shard of quartz. He doesn’t care that we live
in a lap dissolve, flies in amber that is only sugar melting.

The point at which receding parallel lines
seen in linear perspective seem to meet.

An article on a new book of photography in this morning’s Washington Post sent me down this rabbit hole! Here’s the article.

Baby Food – a poem

With both boys home again zooming school, we talk about this corona year and its hardships, and I bore them at dinner recalling my own youth and the lessons there.

We hunted nickels in the cushions
when school lunch was 30 cents
bought kerosene in cans to heat
the house for a day
ran the car without oil ‘til it seized.

You weren’t born yet.
I was younger than you.

We put up a sign when the gas arrived
and cars lined up down the street.
Daddy let them buy food on credit.
What else, he thought, could he do?

When the store failed he walked
the fields drunk as a tattered lord.

So that’s why now here in the suburbs
amidst our cosseted stuff
I come home in a mask with cereal.
Ice cream.  Apple sauce.

You see that’s what he taught me —
find comfort where you can.
In hard times, ain’t it true,
you always run out of spoons.

The Web – a poem

It’s all in how you look at it,
isn’t that what they say?
Not what you say,
it’s how you say it,
and even then, who can say?

On a particular day:
Maybe bugs got in the flour
or your kid pooped his pants
the remote control broke

and that guy came to the door.
Or the phone rang and rang.
She bent to kiss your neck.
The dog wouldn’t eat.
You stood up then sat down.

How could you have traced
or navigated all of that
when what we’re taught
is my own free will?

Failing to note
that strand of web
a tactile whisper at your cheek
alerts that eight-eyed wonder
up the line that never misperceives

to its one pure motive
cares not a whit for how
but is all about when.

Tinnitus – a poem

At first it seemed
real, the sound
snow makes in
falling or some
deep night tune,
awakened at the hoot
of an owl.

But it’s with me now
like a bad tooth,
payment due
for all those
concerts set to stun.

I know what it means
to communicate
this insistent single note:

Remember test patterns
on tv’s back in the day?

Says I’m here
I will whine
even when nothing’s on.

All day every day
that alarm.

Antidote: a poem

Confucius say
make a ritual
in order to attend
in order to focus
on what is needed
to calm enough to get
outside the blather
between your ears.

Make a meal and share it.
Taste and season as you go.

Pick up trash along your walk.

Turn off the phone and sit
and wait for what turns up:

maybe a hummingbird?

Next time you point and say
“You’re not the boss of me,”
scowl at that annoying mask
(while I pout back behind mine),

what if we consider
that even now that little
bee of a bird is gaining weight
simply from sipping flowers

to somehow brave the Gulf of Mexico
again so his race can go on?

Blue Ridge Parenthesis: a poem

For the first time since corona, Chris and I ventured out for a weekend getaway, staying at an Air BnB cottage on a hillside near Bedford, VA. She surprised me Sunday morning with Father’s Day gifts that included a watercolor set and Gary Snyder’s zen poetry collection Danger on Peaks. Which, over coffee, led to this:

On the ridge a neighbor
tests his semi-automatic:

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!

Funny how it’s then
you notice quiet
a blank sheet seepingly
watercolored by
a distant rooster’s crowing
a mourning dove’s
wooden flute reply
and far down on the valley floor
the trailing hoot of a train.

Silent as a shadow
a skink with a brilliant blue tail
edges onto the deck:

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta!