one hundred catcalls in an hour,
"damn baby you're a piece of woman"
and the fucker broke my sister's neck,
now he's yelling at the lady at the counter and
we are all the same
until proven otherwise
paradise is a place nearest the cliffs
with women who make good whiskey and plenty
is the land
to cry a little over the good poems

they grow faces when I talk to them
and learn their name is not Poverty


when we crush him
his bones don't crunch
or make sound at all
he jerks though
sickly neck pops
impossible twist cracks that fold him
right over the line between poor and dead
his skin pushes down and laterally
snag pulled to the street
like the corner of our life landed on the loose skin
at his cheek and as his upper cradle of
ribs and long bones reaches the pavement
he makes the hungry-eyed look around that
runs the motions of hopeful begging but
knows that these paths go nowhere,
that he's in a room made of
music and well being but
none of it written for him.
he doesn't close his eyes when he dies, they
don't even stop looking
he's a quiet pile
the other house guards
will walk around

Looking for the Word

i stopped writing eulogy
after the moon lept from a single lane bridge by an old
grain elevator in southeast Minnesota
and lonely became my midnight dances in the street
singing to a pretty girl
no longer in the sky
with whom i'd only ever been quiet
boy, i had mind to cut that hand off altogether

there's a better word for this

Hithern, December

a wandered road's tramp
lets loose the line of our mountain town border,
in from the outskirts he
rakes the halyard at his back to swing the jib
and eddy to the curb, he's
afraid for the girth of his sail in this city,
that his last valediction might find him here
by the tall ivory of his canvasses
and the nature of the gale he pushed.
what he'll recover is a use for loneliness
and what he'll lose is his pickling guilt
his movement in our hills will wring crackle his limbs
and those ammonic dimmed wits will flee.
he sweeps a stone seat of its snow
and sits to string fiddles in the street crowds which
come to the mountain cloister
for the lens it makes of this valley to the wilds of Orion and Ursus.
i know the man for his winter breaths there on the street,
twisted mist columns of a poet's lucre,
and a stride that doesn't know
where go these winds

The Chest

the man built the chest from familiar fibers
four walls of a grain done tested
by long winter and the run of the Chinook
he built it
with the good of guests in his eyes
and the longsuffering
of home on his back
he asked a tree to the floor
and took its skin and
counted one of few wounds he's dealt a brother

that chest smells like whiskey drift and candlelight,
it smells like
what his wife loved in his shirts for
thirty years of
a mostly graceless marriage dance
propped up
by mercy
and kept in the habit of breathing by music
that was never turned off

The Neighbor Columns

the blackbirds were his first target.
when he had reached the pillars
he would slow way down
and, careful,
place his hands.
his wide eyes kept, and betrayed, him a boy
on in from the first touch
critic of the cut
a disciple of the weight
bed time in our bunk beds he'd
tell me he was looking for the ravens in the marble
not to startle in their eye
but to move in their bones
i never slept the nights
he had run to the neighbor columns
for the crow of exhausted birds still circling overhead.


The garage door came alive once.  All on its lonesome.  One blast from a thunderhead and it succumbed to mechanical fits, slapping the driveway and rolling like eyes back to the rafters, possessed in its wire veins by a white flicker from the sky.

It was a thunderstorm of the furious sort that tumble and convect over country in the northern Great Plains.  My two older brothers and I gawked at the sheet rain thrashing the windows of our green rambler in Austin, near the Iowan border.  I remember the sky greening with dusk.  The humid inhale and the stillness.  As our world twisted away from the sun, and moved through the checkered casts of summer evening, the storm laced its gloves and settled low.  Our parents were away for the evening, and Grandma Mickey had come for the night.


pays me and then
the man tells me he doesn't normally ride horses
that he just wants to see the desert
i see cold snagged in the cracks of his duster
and too the passing offers of stars
so i'd guess
he's just tired of walking