Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Dry Spot Under the Trees


After dropping him off she drove downtown
where they shaved her forearm and tattooed a sticky sunflower
in commemoration of watching the hungry pines prepare to grind
her Freshman son into splinters and scatter them through the woods.
Orange oily globs had floated on the pale milk of the lake 
during their last meal together at the student cafeteria. 
Her eyes brimmed with bongwater. Bits of gristle 
drifted toward the surface and she held them under
with the bamboo spork until the bubbles stopped.
Arm swaddled in Saran Wrap, she drove back
past the evergreen fence with its mesh of compass needles
to the Motel 8 on the outskirts of Oly and flopped onto the bed 
basted in sweat, simmering in a broth of worry.
Half a bottle of merlot later, she put the news on mute
and yanked the ripcord and the emergency life raft in her chest inflated
She let the current drag he down the carpeted hall
past the housekeeping closet crammed with cans of Pledge
and extra washrags and lozenge soaps
Past the rack bristling with tourist magazines
begging her to visit Raingutter Falls, the Roadkill Museum,
the Cave of the Electric Hairdryers
Past the front desk clerk watching the playoffs
with the sound off, the numbers nine and one 
always cued up on his phone,
until she ended up, as everyone does
in every one of my poems,
out at the edge of the parking lot,
looking up at the stars,
trying not to imagine too hard.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Loneliness

An old man in a cowboy hat
is juggling bowling pins
while balancing on a big red ball
in the middle of the square.
He slowly starts to shuffle forward,
the ball moving beneath him.
Everyone on the train
is staring at their phones.
I think of nudging
the guy beside me
to get him to look.
But I don't.

Love Song

I'm lying under your bed
flat on my back
the wooden bed slats high above me
It's woolly down here
and I was in too much of a hurry
to grab a pillow.
I picture you up there, under the patchwork
Your body barely makes
an impression in the mattress.
The only sound is the gentle flap
as I turn the pages of my book.
it's too dark
to read but I know every word by heart,
every illustration is stored
in the larger book
in my brain. The pictures of you,
the pictures you drew,
the pictures we drew together,
they're all in there.
I hear a thump and the sound of the cat
padding around, scratching in the litter box
in the bathroom. I want to crawl out
and gaze at you as you sleep,
watch your little face twitch with dreams
But no, I'll stay down here as long as I can
though the floorboards are hard
I'll stay here til dawn
before dragging myself out
to see if you're really there

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

October Song

German shepherd with a cone around
its shaggy neck.
Clump of black-eyed Susans shivering
next to an empty pizza box.
The rattle of a shopping cart
being pushed behind the bushes.
A mash of acorns scattered
at the edge of the church parking lot.
No more will drop this year.
You no longer need to cover your skull
as you stroll beneath the oaks,
though you still need to watch out for
the black walnuts, the horse chestnuts,
the promises that rain down like stones.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ice Ribs


We’re all standing against a fence
waiting for the bus to Olympia.
Between the black bars, spider webs gleam
in the morning sun.
An old man in an orange vest is plucking cigarette butts
from beside the curb with a metal claw.
A woman reaches into her Grocery Outlet bag
and takes out a package of Pop Tarts
and a juice box. She breaks the Pop Tart into pieces
and feeds them to her son, who seems old enough
and able to do so himself. She unwraps the plastic straw
from the side of the juice box, pierces the foil,
and holds it out to him so he can drink.
At this point I realize that I’m in the wrong line
and the bus is waiting at the end of the block.
I make it just in time, the last to board.

*

Behind the hotel
there is a powder blue dumpster
surrounded by a yellow brick wall.
At the edge of the parking lot
beneath the trees
is a picnic table
where the smokers can sit.
The front desk clerk,
a young Korean kid
face ravaged with acne, says
the cops come by sometimes
with someone who’s just been
released from prison,
get them a room for the night.
At dusk I see flashing lights in the carport,
a couple standing by a car with the hood propped,
the jagged pines dark against the sky.

*

The sound of the highway traffic rushing
behind the wall of evergreens.
A Gulf Station, a 76 station
A Quality inn, a Ramada Inn, a Super 8
A Shari’s and a Burger King
and a Denny’s, with a hostess named Chloe,
skinny with raccoon eyes
and a sad, sweet smile.
When your shift is over,
I’ll scooch over in my booth
and you can pick at my soggy fries
and lay your weary head
with its dishwater blond locks
against my shoulder
and tell me
everything

*

A man pushes his kid in a stroller
along a busy street.
Closer to town, there’s Aztek Bowling
and Twister Donuts
and haunted pawn shops
and discount trophy stores
but out here there are no buildings
There’s nothing along this stretch of road
aside from a motel half a mile ahead
and a marijuana dispensary
half a mile back

*

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
is on TV. Our hearts
are rust and leather, clanging cages,
chains and rubber, steam and echoes.
The desert is full of sinkholes
that swallow first a horse
then a young girl.
I sit on the bed and nibble
my leftover croque-monsieur,
sip my gas station pinot grigio,
mute the commercials entreating you to join
class action lawsuits against the makers
of hernia mesh implants, imploring you
to seek compensation if you
or someone you love
has suffered injury or death
as a result
of a hernia mesh operation

*

On the bus ride home, I leaf through
a book of Indian tales. The light
of the overhead bulb trickles down
onto woodcuts of totem poles,
of sea monsters and wild women of the woods
and mountain goats with only one horn.
I read about a young man named Ice Ribs
who defeated a giant crab,
which then turned into thousands of tiny crabs
for the tribe to feast upon.
The light is weak and my eyes are bad
and I have to hold the book close to my face
to make out the words
and after a while I turn off the lamp
and stare out the window,
watching the distant lights zoom past
like sparks flashing in the dark eye
of a raven

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Blood


Gently pattering heartbeat of rain
I set my pace to the rhythm as I tumble downhill
to the coffee shop Sunday morning.
Acorns and chestnuts knock
against the sidewalk; I skirt the trees.
Pulse hammers, flutters.
I sit beneath the awning,
cradling the lavender mug
with the words “Hello Darling”
printed on the side. The dark coffee
spreads its bitter warmth
through my chest. The rain hisses.
Shh. Pull up the blankets my love,
let sleep muffle the drumming
behind your eyelids. While you dream,
I will hold your little hand,
a wet leaf, yellow.

Roof


It’s a chickadee, not a junco.

It’s a sparrow, not a chickadee.

It’s an acorn that’s mostly cap

with just a tiny bit of chin

sticking out.

It’s the red metal roof,

sundappled,

last years’ leaves

turned to dust in the gutters.