Monthly Archives: November 2017

On Breast Tree Road

The truth is, when his heart stopped it was like a cricket going silent
inside a down jacket. In the blue grind of his sinking house trailer,
wheel chocks barely holding in the bristle patch above the river,
time changed into an overpass stuffed with steel wool.

Dressed up in time, the world was like a great wing of doors,
each lubbing the light into church rows. Particular and tall.
And nothing changed. The melon fields still crowded the road
& all the talk at the Sizzler of jobs at the new windmills.
Look around, he said. It’s all paved with fire, water and smoke.
No. Look around. It’s just the spatter of goose shit-size rain
on Breast Tree road. That’s what’s left. Nothing’s changed.

The stillness was stacked beside the fields, like aluminum pipe
after wheel irrigation is done. A rash of cut-over tree farms,
each with a sawdust pile, soon to be lit with a road flare.
The One Bird Road samaritans, the heated pool boys in blue fescue,
the fallen hero double wides where everyone’s heart beats at half mast.
All wrapped in pale pieces of evening.

To a drunk guy hanging sheet rock when the body isn’t there,
to the horses in the lost farm corrals, to the line of pink Porta potties,
it’s all just a dropped signal. One whiff of their mortal decay
and you wouldn’t be able to live with yourself.
Ask a pipefitter or a grave digger what happens
when the three-strand Jesus frees you from sin
in the white gristle church by the fairgrounds.
“OK. What’s in the Full Hot Breakfast?”
he asks the tall-boned preacher woman. “What’s comes out of the coffins?”
In the smelting rain, the answer comes from a row
of red osier dogwoods by the diner:
“A line of traffic cones and miles and miles of hair.”

Under the iron dog antenna, like a groin kick, comes the sound
of the great wing of doors brushing his trailer. His chest is full of stones.
He takes his comb out of his back pocket and slicks back his hair.
He walks to his day job at the Casino. The light comes down in pentacles.
He walks to his swing shift job, spraying foam liners into truck beds.
The light comes down in strings of seed pods. He walks home to the trailer
on the 5% grade, still holding the hill above the river. The light comes down
in 5/4 and 8/4 laminated sheets. Each one ready to fly out of the bed
at a moment’s notice.

Mùirnean (Beloved)

I
Henry mourned his wife Libby for seven years after she died in childbirth. Following the custom in Richmond, Virginia in 1910, he wore a black armband in public and even at home. Hattie, a cheery head warden of a woman at the first baptist church, was eventually able to entice him out of his melancholy long enough to marry again. But his despondency soon reoccupied the tall corner cabinet in his soul. Some nights Libby joined him on the nearby granite bench where they toasted the stars with windfall crab apples and ether from the pharmacy.

II
Declan’s dory boat wallows through the grabby and foul Irish sea working its way towards the island of Iona. He is one of six waxy faced pilgrims lining its open hull like grim Christmas ornaments. A talon-hard rain tries to claw away their faces. “I would see Iona in hell on a day like this,” says their boatman. His tiny outboard motor echos his discontent as it skips clear of the sea on the upward roll. At the crest Macbeth’s funeral boat is visible gaining seaway behind them. Mainsail straining wildly. Long sweeps clawing like an Orkney lobster.

III
Mary Catherine is driving home from visiting a medicine man on the Yuma reservation in Arizona. He has entrusted her with a torn eagle skin pouch to repair and care take for as long as she needs it. The beaded bag sits beside her on the seat of her sagging red Toyota truck. The dashboard glows soft gold in the lowering light. Her late stage breast cancer burrows in under her ribs. Venus begins its slow rise in the ragged paper sky in the west. As she crosses the Nevada border into Oregon, she looks up to see a set of fiery rings igniting the sky, rotating slowly over the Alvord desert like a festival of eyes.