POEM: bus stop effigy

Listen to this poem by pressing the play button above.

Image (c) John Brodkin
Image (c) John Brodkin

bus stop effigy

bus stop effigy
low-wage lynching
victim waits
to move from one
rat hole to the next
stop on the line
with only ends
no destinations
no cessation
puffy down coat
conceals smoldering
fire in the gut
winter air hides
shamefaced blush

POEM: William Can’t Tell

The thermodynamic arrow of time has always interested me, both as a concept and a phrase. I wrote this syllabic poem last year, my first such attempt. Thanks to Huw Price for allowing me to use the epigram.


Image courtesy of Rush W. Dozier, Codes of Evolution – the Synaptic language Language revealing the Secrets of Matter, Life, and Thought, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1992.

William Can’t Tell

Late in the nineteenth century, on the shoulders of Maxwell, Boltzmann and many lesser giants, physicists saw that there is a deep puzzle behind the familiar phenomena described by the new science of thermodynamics. On the one hand, many such phenomena show a striking temporal bias. They are common in one temporal orientation, but rare or non-existent in reverse. On the other hand, the underlying laws of mechanics show no such temporal preference. If they allow a process in one direction, they also allow its temporal mirror image. Hence the puzzle: if the laws are so even-handed, why are the phenomema themselves so one-sided? — Huw Price, from The Thermodynamic Arrow: Puzzles and Pseudo-Puzzles

chaos does not lessen
along the arrow’s path

and time cannot be measured
by order or its absence

the arrow flies forever
no pressure no resistance

thermodynamism
beneath the lives of every

woman, man and baby
throughout this blind creation

there is no bow, no hunter
no target, no intention

POEM: Sixty-Seven Unopened Videocasettes

A poem about seeing my biological father and grandmother for the first time in 30 years.

Sixty-Seven Unopened Videocassettes

Thirty years and fifty percent of my DNA
have brought me to a double-wide with a steep driveway,
tucked away in an enclave of trailers not far from the iron banks of the Ohio River.
She asks me to call her “nanna” because all the children do.
He’s missing most of his teeth — waiting for a new set of dentures.
I have no hook on which to hang this porch conversation,
this three-decade history lesson and game of tag.
So we talk about tobacco farming, long-haul trucking,
and spying on the Russians from within a cigar tube deep beneath the Mediterranean.
I learn about great-uncles and great-aunts and an extra uncle,
only to learn that money and land and other tragedies have driven wedges into this family, too.
I want to walk into the dining room like Antwone Fisher,
but the table is given over to Charlie Brown and Linus —
Christmas decorations awaiting transfer to their holiday destination.
There are sixty-seven unopened Star Trek videocassettes,
a bathroom crammed with history books,
lighters from the Navy,
a robe almost like the one I wear,
and an old shaving cup with a worn brush.
No matter what happens, I’ve erased the most terrible vision —
awaiting the end with the moisture of regret dampening my cheeks.
“The next time you come, darlin’, we’ll have chicken and dumplings.”

POEM: It isn’t merely the fashioning

I wrote this last February while thinking of my friend Julie White. She knits, cycles, gardens, teaches and other worthwhile things. Visit her blog.

It isn’t merely the fashioning
for Julie White

It isn’t merely the fashioning
of new meanings from the threads and whisps,
rather it is the intention, the

unsounded affirmation of a
relationship, woven into each
chosen strand and intricate pattern.

Pearls uncovered in the depths, the craft
rows back to shore, where it is met by
the warm wool and the gathering in.

One must take stock in it, and accept
the gift for what it is, speech rendered,
unspoken, as textile manuscript.

POEM: At Mr. Frost’s

I wrote this poem after a visit to Robert Frost’s house in Shaftsbury, VT.

Stone wall behind Robert Frost's house
Stone wall behind Robert Frost's house. Photo by Jason Crane.

At Mr. Frost’s

Bathed in
autumn
sunlight
on a
table rock
in the fallow field
behind
Robert Frost’s
stone house,
I’m reminded
of the poet’s
advice
to not press
the poems
too hard.
Sometimes sunlight
is just that,
and fallow fields
need only
sun, seeds,
water
and time.

POEM: Long Haul

Photo from the David Faust Collection
Photo from the David Faust Collection

Long Haul
(for my father and his father)

it wasn’t easy keeping all those wheels on the road
another late-night diner and a nap in the cab
hauling one of the damned things was hard enough
it took a man to pull two

it wasn’t easy to raise seven of them
the boy was first and then six — six! — girls
you’d think we would have stopped trying
to make him a brother

and since he was a solitary boy even then,
he would put on his suit and walk down to the little church
that was happy to have an usher
an extra boy to pass the hat for what little there was

he wrecked the car, I made him replace it with college money
I wasn’t teaching him a lesson about responsibility
I was trying to hang on to my boy
the one who’d always had his eye on the horizon

and then later, when he was home from the service
we’d go down under the church to drink at the Legion hall
thick smoke in the air, cheap beer on tap
looking down the barrel of a one-stoplight life

it took a man — and I knew it — to leave
to drive and keep driving until he’d built a better life
to be more than I was and to do it with dignity
and I never told him, but I was proud



(Thanks to David Faust for letting me use a photo from his collection of St. Johnsbury trucks. That’s the company for which my grandfather drove.)