Friday, May 28, 2010

I Am Not A Poet

I Am Not A Poet

I am not a poet when I type

A garble of rhyme schemes
In a structure that might
Suggest that maybe

I wish to be

But sometimes I just write

Accidental poetry
And incidentally
It may seem that

I wish to be

But I assure you

I do not aspire for that.
And perhaps poetry is something
That wishes aspire me.


I was standing alone with my arms outstretched

that night, dew on the capital lawn. The ghosts
of my past hanging loosely to my fingertips-
trailing just far enough behind

But never gone.

A spire in the distance stabbed high above

the tree line. A silhouette in the night. My future
riding on the tip of my nose- pointing
to the same sky from which these pallid eyes hide.

Myopic in the dim city lights.

Yet that night I felt something that shook me

wide across boundaries
that I never before dared touch
And blindly I grabbed.

I'm ready, I said. I'm ready

To come home.
And I knew what that meant
during that suspended breath.

And as I stretched my arms just a fraction wider

I realized the flaw in my intent.
I can't be taken home
If I never learned what Home meant.


I know Highway 12

Like the back of this tired hand
That grips this decrepit wheel
As I sway between
The yellow
and white lines.

As time slips away

and leisure is cadged:
Between these lines I sway.

Where poetry is a safe place

From these minutes strafed
By busyness and haste:

I stay.

For just a moment to sway

Across this black terrain
Mere inches away
And hundreds of miles a day.


As I stood bare feet

The grass up to my knees
I rolled up my sleeves
And pushed my pant legs down.

The sparse cottonwood swirled

And danced as it took
The way of the wind's whim
Toward the woods and the brook.

And all of these little clouds

Meant something to me:
Representing one sin each
Leaving my conscious free.

So small.

So innocent.
Some forgotten.
Some aged.

But suddenly in thousands

They plagued, making turbid
The clear blue sky
Until it became pallid and white.

Then the wind behind me

Blew harder than a whim
And by force they pushed
Blanching the sky as a scrim.

And finally when a lifetime

Of white before me passed
I chased a lagging cottonwood
To see where it would come to rest.

Through bramble and brush it led and

Over cattail and creek I splashed.
When finally in a clearing
I reached the end of my quest.

There an endless sea

Of cottonwood had massed
And out in the distance:
A man wading through the mess.

He spoke to me and said:

It seems your carelessness
Has found its way to my hamlet!
And if you'd like the chance
To rid yourself of these solecisms
I'd gladly take this burden
But you can keep them too,
I guess.

So I dug in my pockets

And reached in the collar
Behind me neck
Looking for any more
That the wind might have missed.

But the sea held them all.

So I smiled

Gave my thanks

And left.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Have Not. Sorry.

---For David Benjamin Piery--- 

The child woke up under the radar to the ping! ping! ping! telling them whether the submarine was close to anything. The child recognized the rhythm; they were the only object within several hundred feet.
         He yawned, stretched his tiny bony frame and clawed at his back. Mussed his hair. He got up and ambled into the crew cabin. It was empty.

The child was the son of the captain of a submarine named Lima. It was the only of its class, built in Russia. The purpose was officially unknown but it was ostensibly in use for research on new technology or perhaps special mission support. It is assumed that Lima was unarmed, and it was. On this trip, Lima was used for something else entirely, and this is the account of David, the adopted aforementioned son of Captain Piery, who was not Russian at all, but a portly Italian man.

Guys? called out David. He wandered through the kitchen. Empty. He wandered through any common area the men might be. Nothing. Guys?! David called out again.

David was a child unknown for being notoriously overlooked. In his elementary school every student was to receive the Student of The Week award one time throughout the school year, regardless of merit. David never received this ‘honor’, to no fault of his own. In fact, just two days prior to David waking up alone, he was found wandering around Lima, and a member of the 32 man crew ran up to Captain Piery to tell of the strange boy spotted in this submarine that had been underwater for two weeks. Captain Piery knocked his hat back and his blood pressure jumped considerably as he was escorted to the boy. This is my son, he said in a sigh of relief, just now remembering that he was indeed on the submarine for this mission. The crewman said I didn’t know you had a son.
         The reason for David’s presence on the submarine was not actually known to Captain Piery. In fact, something about this whole mission seemed fishy. They didn’t actually know where they were going or for what. Orders from Above.

David walked into the boiler room. There was a note in a plastic Ziploc taped to a pipe. The note was written in gigantic scrawl with what appeared to be a quill and ink. The note said:

Dear Russia: Everyone on this ship has been found holy and was taken in the rapture. If you are reading this, you have not. Sorry.

Rats! Overlooked again! David put the note, which was half true, in his pocket and manned the navigation controls. He attempted to surface the beast and was doing alright. He didn’t know how to land it, though, and he didn’t know where he was. He wanted to look through the periscope to see if God was anywhere nearby. But it was too dark under water.

David cracked eggs into a pan. I will make the best out of this, he thought, and breakfast was the best thing that he knew. He had the makings of pancakes set out and he was just about to get started on that when he heard a voice down by the boiler room. Hey David, it said. David. C’mere. So he did.
         He looked in and there was another note. This one said:

Hey David, I was just kidding about the rapture thing. I just wanted to see what you would do. Glad to see you are making the best out of being a leftover of rapture. I mean I knew you would, but I wanted to see you make the best of it. Otherwise you wouldnt have. You know? You know. Anyway, Im sending everyone back.

         And everyone appeared back as soon as he finished reading. The letters were gone, though. As soon as he was spotted walking out of the boiler room one of the crewmen said Oh my God! A boy was stowing away in the boiler room!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Home Run King

I remember the last time I saw my dad. I remember the last thing he said to me:


My brother played for the Zephyrs.

Z-E-P-H-Y-R-S, were the Zephyrs and were the best!

This was when the scores didnt matter because the game was filled with the desire to have fun, not to absolute oneself in the adult inebriant of victory.
I stood by my dad watching from the chain link fence to the left side of home plate. We didnt talk much and we never did but we loved each other. The makings of a father-son relationship that lost custody had put asunder. Awkwardly we reached for normalcy. Because thats the way it should be.
Ryan was up to bat. It was nearing the end of the game. Nearing the time that I would go live with my mom for a weekend; my father regained custody of us just a few years earlier. This was won in adult conversations with my mother, not in court. The pitch drew near as my brother lugged the bat slothfully across the plate. Connection. The ball flew low and hit the grass as soon as it appeared. Right field bobbled it around on the ground and finally scooped it up to throw it to first. Too late, and Ryan was already on his way towards second. The ball fell underthrown and rolled past the first baseman. By the time he picked it up and threw it to second Ryan was almost to third. The boys from his dugout where on their feet jumping and yelling. My fingers clenched through the large holes in the chain link fence and my eyes looked up at my dad and back to my brother. Third base coach was wind milling his arm and pointing towards home and Ryan didnt hesitate a second as he tore around the base. The second baseman stopped himself from throwing to third. He turned and threw the ball hard towards the catcher but it was once again too late. Ryan slid to home with time to spare and was mobbed by a team of screaming young boys. He was picked up and carried back to the dugout, everyone shouted his new moniker tumultuously: The Home Run King!

         Mom pulled up and I couldnt wait to tell her about Ryans triumph over a feat that many kids never can boast. We stood around in a circle talking about it- my brother and I bouncing details back and fourth. Having both perspectives made the story just as exhilarating to relive until it was time to go. I told my dad that I would see him Monday and he just smiled wearily and said:


The car drove out of town. I didnt know that I was about to leave a life that I knew well for so many years. But it wasnt my choice. It left me. Left me to live forever changed in a life thats the same, just missing one piece.


She drove seventy miles already and had about thirty left to go. The car purred softly as she turned cruise control off and pressed down on the accelerator. A billboard on the side of the road said:

get the rest you need at the
exit 46

And that is the exit she was driving to. With every mile she thought of another piece of the town she had long since left. One piece was prominent and it was the purpose of her return.

Janice. said the young woman. My names Janice and sign language is my first language. My brother is deaf, so my parents taught me from birth.

Thats wonderful. said the mother. This happening to Cherie was unexpected, of course. Thank you so much for your help.

Gotta pay for school somehow. smiled the young woman.

She remembered devoting much of her time that year teaching sign language to that worried mother. The mother was raising a deaf child by herself. She often thought she should be doing this for free. She put the money in a jar under a picture of an old building built for young matriculating persons. Saving to become a part of that photographs esoterica. The mother eventually learned well enough to communicate with her baby but would still have to learn more.

She pulled off onto exit 46 and took a right. She didnt know where to start but she did have a last name. She thought that she would start tomorrow. She pulled up to the Sleep Inn and killed the engine. She sat with her hands on the wheel.

After she put everything away in her room she got back in her car and went somewhere that she was never old enough to patronize while she lived there. Now she was old enough by more than ten years. Poseidons was a makeshift beach club in a southern landlocked town. It had a pool and a mermaid who always swam around looking pretty. It started off as a joke a few years prior but turned into a staple; an attraction to the place.

She sat down at the window facing the pool. There was money taped all over the window and she turned to the guy next to her.

Whats the money all about? said the woman.

Tips. replied the man gruffly. For the mermaid. Watch. He slapped a one dollar bill on the window with some tape. The mermaid held up a sign that said:

Thank You!

Whats this girls deal? said the woman.

Who, Cherie? Shes deaf. She does this mermaid gig every night to make money. Its a good job for someone who cant, you know, talk.

The woman swallowed and looked out the window. She reached in her purse, fished out a business card and wrote: I want to send you to school. on the back. She taped it to the window and the mermaid held up a sign that said:

Thank You!

The Man Who Could Get Any Job

I know a man who could get any job. He was visiting me in Coopersville, and just to prove it, he got a job within thirty seconds at a firm. He had never even been in the state before.

         I, on the other hand, cannot get a job anywhere. On many occasions I would ask my father for a job at his store. Papa, isn't there an extra spot at the register? No, he would say. Sweeping the floors? No. Papa, what about parking attendant? and Papa thought and said Congratulations, son, you're hired! It was my first job and I was twenty-three.
         Papa had to make a special uniform for me because I was the first ever parking attendant at his hardware store, and in fact, any hardware store. When two weeks were up Papa came to me and said Son, there's not a spot for you on payroll. So I got a little wooden sign that said TIPS in white paint nailed to a wooden bucket that Papa had me wear around my neck. Papa collected the tips every few hours and at the end of the week gave me a stipend. My first paycheck was $17.56.

         The man who could get any job moved down to Coopersville to work at the firm. Finally, I asked him what it was that got him all these jobs without even trying. What’s your secret? He just stroked his mustache with his thumb and index finger slowly and evenly, in deep thought. I don't know, he concluded. I asked him what he thought of Coopersville and spied him licking the corner of his mustache. Coopersville? I always thought it was Coppersville! Hahaha! And he laughed and laughed and walked out of the room. I stood bemused and then it dawned on me.

         Papa, Papa! I said breathlessly when I finally found him in his chauffeur uniform from 1986 that he still likes to "wear casually". This means around the house. I know why I can't get a job, I get it! I said in a fit of excitement. He looked at me and wiggled his pencil thin mustache resting on his wise upper lip and said, Why's that, son? I pointed right at him and said That!
         Zoom in on this mans face. My father, my Papa, in his chauffeur uniform, until your vision rests exclusively on his upper lip. The bristles protrude proudly and dance out of his glistening lip, which then smiles and shows only slightly his upper teeth. Still zoomed in, his mouth says I’ve been wondering how long it would take, son. I’m sorry I didn't tell you earlier but you’re simply unable to do this on your own. It's okay, son, I’ve been keeping the other 63% of the tips that you’ve made for this occasion. We have enough to get you fixed right up.

Wish me luck.