Saturday, May 30, 2009

The New Book Of Endangered Birds

The Chimney

Just a Thought
The Fellow Who Falls
The Nerve
A Crow Can Go
The President’s Tailor
On Holly & Cornwall
Hiding in Woods & Water
The Chalk Drawn Word
End of Story
Waiting for the End of Story
What Good?
Inside Inside
Poor Spot
After Dawn As Told
Like Sparrows Following Him
Wherever He Went
The Titanic Shadow
The Float
Blessing Creatures
So It Goes
The Sticker
Foggy Day
The Vanisher
The Dummy Family
Poe at the Zoo
The President’s Mirrors
Empire At Work
How Come?
Sam the Canary
The Wooden Trombone
We Are Together
City Under Fire
The Lucky Halibut
From There
Franklin Lilacs
Pheasant’s Violin
One Way Suit
Bassoon Room
The Numbers
Wurlitzer Porch
The Rock Thrower
The Cold Wall
Bicycle Sail
Migrating Birds
The Talking Dog Store
The Teether
Anyone’s Poems
The World Awaits
A Goodbye Arm
My Illusion
The Infinite Telescope
Wake Up Saint
The Goodwill Industries
Fred Again
I Know
The Visions
Only One
A Little Spark

The Chimney

Widow Templin thought she could dry her clothes
by the light of the full moon. So she was a fool, so she did
these kinds of things. That’s how she happened to see
what happened next.
She was out in the morning rain trying to pull all
the wet laundry into a basket when she noticed the blur
on the roof, across the distance, over there.
It was quick to freeze. It looked like a chimney.
She stared at it until she and the basket full of clothes
had soaked up the rain. Slowly it occurred to her that
she must have been seeing things.
She went inside to get dry. Three hours later,
the rain clouds passed, she came outside. She stopped
on the sidewalk. She stared across the space. On top of
the roof the chimney was gone.

Just a Thought

Just a thought
as I go out
carrying the trash
to the can
behind the fence

Aware of everything
the black ocean
overhead stars
the gleam of Mars

I hope and believe
nobody is watching
my task out here
in my underwear

The Fellow Who Falls

When the sun goes down
pulling all that yellow
into a crisp red blanket
he falls over flat
the weight of the day
too much to bear

The Nerve

Out in the barn
looking for a socket set
I can’t find anywhere
I brush against
something that claws
in the dimness

It takes a moment
to realize what it is
a creeper of blackberry
a good ten feet long
hanging from the ceiling
where it’s crawled inside
and sprouted leaves

In the pale light
of the window glass
I can’t find clippers
or scissors in sight
but a hunting knife
dull and rusty will do

So the vine can’t bite
I need something
to hold the thorns
a torn piece of cardboard
folded over to grip
it let me cut the nerve
of the unwelcome guest

A Crow Can Go

The ground used to be
like the air where
there aren’t any roads
and a crow can go
wherever the wind blows

The President’s Tailor

Arnold Nusfelder was in the limelight at last.
His long climb up the ladder had taken him from humble
beginnings, shop on the corner, tailor to the neighborhood,
then the gangsters, then the stars and finally to the president
himself. But what seemed like an American success story
of movie proportions suddenly stalled one October night.
That evening, the president sent some men over to discuss
the situation.
“What? Who are you?” Arnold yelped as he was pushed
back into his house.
The other big guy in the black suit slammed the door
while Arnold felt himself guided towards his living room. His
feet weren’t touching the floor, he kicked them like a puppet
as the carpet flashed by.
The television program about animals continued as if
nothing strange was happening on the other side of the screen.
A lion took down a deer.
“What do you want?”
“Are you Mr. Nusfelding?”
“Nusfelder. I’m Arnold Nusfelder,” the trembling man
The two men froze for a moment. Maybe they’re in the
wrong house, Arnold prayed. Sure, he tried to smile, that was
it, and he pointed, “Nice suits you boys got. Can I see the sleeve?”
Arnold jumped as the sleeve shot at him and caught him
around the neck.
“You a tailor?”
“Yes,” he coughed. “I’m just a tailor.”
“He’s the guy alright,” said the other goon who closed in
on Arnold too.
“Please! Don’t hurt me!” Arnold begged. “I’ll give you a
refund, a free fitting.” He flinched as the arm not holding him
reached into the fold of the dark black suit. Arnold closed his
eyes and prepared for lights out.
“Look at this. Hey! Read this speech.”
The hands let go of Arnold and he slumped into the sofa.
“What is it?” Arnold gasped.
With shaking fingers, the tailor turned on the lamp beside
him and raised the note to his eyes. He put on his reading glasses.
He read. The two hired men menaced the lamplight.
“This is crazy…” he stammered. “What is this? Why am I
supposed to read this?”
“Like I told you. This is your speech.”
The other man jabbed a boxer’s fist at the tv set. “Didn’t
you watch the debate tonight? Did you see the president’s suit?”
“Yes! Yes, he looked great wearing that suit!” Arnold
waved the note like a butterfly collector. “That’s my best suit.
That other guy looked like a peddler!”
“Listen…” the giant who had held Arnold with crushing
force leaned down to breathe on him again. “That suit you made
got him in a lot of trouble. This is your speech. Memorize it.”
“Then tell the camera,” the partner said stonily.
The way they glared at him there was nothing Arnold
Nusfelder could say.
This speech would be the end of him…he imagined the
guild’s response…his customers…everything he had built up
over the years would crash down.
The front door shut with a chop. The room was a ticking
clock on the mantel. Sam the canary hopped onto his swing.
Arnold put his hands over his face to hold his temples. The
phone began to ring.

On Holly & Cornwall

On Holly & Cornwall
right there on the corner
fifty years ago
a truck was parked
and a crowd
gathered on the curb
to boo and cheer
the driver tossing fruit
out to the street
the boy would try
to catch if he could
standing in rinds
and red sweet

Hiding In Woods & Water

A rabbit leaped
into the underbrush
and put on the colors
browns and shadows
to disappear

I remember
last weekend
in these woods
an owl flew over
without a sound
and landed sentry
on a tree overhead

We crossed the creek
stirred up a noise
hiding in water
a gray heron
combing through
the tall reeds

The Chalk Drawn Word

It had been years since Dr. Biocal was seen.
If he was a bolt of iron, he would have been
rusted into the shallow roots of trees, covered
with a blanket of leaves and cold topsoil. Instead
he could be found inside a college classroom,
wearing fall colored tweed and corduroy. He stood
in front of a precisely drawn chalk diagram on
the blackboard. The picture was a floor plan,
checkmarks that represented the path up to a
counter where there were x’s drawn. Underneath
it, above the chalkboard gutter was a single word:

End of Story

“No more yelling!” he thundered into the dark
bedroom of his daughter. The bunk bed loomed
in a shroud. “I don’t want to hear from you again
unless a gorilla arm comes through that window
and shakes you like a ragdoll. Now goodnight.”

Waiting for the End of Story

Ten blocks away, two hairy arms were holding
a newspaper up like a shower curtain. Behind all
those words was a gorilla chewing on a cigar.
He dropped the paper and lifted his left arm to
look at all the wristwatches he was wearing.
They all read about 9:30. After he took a sip
of coffee from the styrofoam cup on his desk,
he reached out for the ringing telephone.
Through trick-photography, the ape appears
to talk into the phone. “Hey…Really?...Okay,
well call me if it happens again, okay?...
Yeah, I’ll be waiting here.” Then he dropped
the phone back in the cradle. He reached for
a pack of cigarettes on the table.

What Good?

What good is a house
without a rake?

What good is a dog
without a lake?

What good is a car
without a brake?

What good is a world
without mistakes

Inside Inside

So tired
I tried
to sleep
a bed
my dream

Poor Spot

Poor Spot
died of the drought
or I know not what

Something caused
a weight
made him sink
like a stone

when it was over
light as an angel
he floated
to the top

A dry leaf
orange on water
the goldfish
who only lived
for a week

After Dawn As Told

After dawn a black sedan rolled down an alley
and slid into the narrow space, a slipway of
cardboard rotting, leaning fence posts and
garbage that crackled under the rolling,
stopping wheels. Dr. Biocal brought his class
here, this was Step 1 on the clipboard description.
He turned in his seat and pressed his finger on
Step 2.
The sliding door revealed the cool blue gray
of the new waiting day and one by one after
another they went out…all but Dr. Biocal who
sat still in his driving seat with a stopwatch
and that long look on his face.
They left for the bank as told.


What a name
and what went
is not far away

Followers know
we’re not lost

A journey is
not a worry

All you do
is open eyes
show the way

come true

Like Sparrows Following Him
Wherever He Went

Like sparrows
following him
wherever he went

Getting caught
on branches
and corners

Hopping down
on sidewalks
like falling rain

The Titanic Shadow

Cantilevered and lowered
from a sea blue sky unrolled
onto a field rilled with autumn
brown furrows, it was the famous
Titanic shadow, it was back!

With slow grand passage
it leaked across the tilled
and fertile ground
trailing faint sound
its cork-screw engines
thrumming in the cold

The Float

An ordinary person becomes The Float
a superhero who has all the powers of
a cloud. What a sight to behold him
sprain along ten feet above the sidewalk
choosing a garden to rain upon

Blessing Creatures

The bird Laura found
skin like a cold child
flesh stuck to a plastic lid

Who knows who you are?

I wrap you in petals
for the ride you go on
then I find your ground
dig a hole in the lawn

I have to bring Rosa out
she rides up in my arms
she can say a true prayer
“Good luck on your next life
thanks for being here”

So It Goes

All’s well
oil well
the planet
has seen it

We see
what we want
to see

So it goes
the usual way
enslaved people
the tv
was meant
for you

Like a bright sun
or someone
calling the birds
if we knew better
the whole thing
would be solved
a long time ago

When I hear
we’re at war
what can I do?
I know we’ve
been here before

The Sticker

After I finish voting
at the retirement center
I have to drive quickly
get back home
catch the 7:30 bus
the day awaits at work

But an overstuffed truck
jack-knifes backing up
what can I say?

I have time to read
the bumper sticker
and the panic
obvious motion
the flailing man
turning the wheel

Foggy Day

What a foggy day
what a gray dream
what an old story
looks like we all
fall under a spell
when the light is gone

The Vanisher

Early on Election Day morning I drove
over to the retirement center to vote.
There on the corner of Fairhaven Parkway
I saw something I couldn’t believe:
a superhero wearing bright leaf-green
with a long yellow scarf blowing in the wind.
Was he directing traffic or protecting ballots?
I never found out as things panned out.
Like humor and hope and other good things,
he vanished that day the second
I looked closer for him.

The Dummy Family

We created an entire family for only a few dollars
clothes, hats and shoes all bought at Goodwill
stuffed with newspapers, then placed in laying-down
tragedy on the pavement of Maine Street at night.
They looked real enough to stop traffic and bring on
the police with blue lights.

Poe at the Zoo

It must have started on a folded scrap
with a sharpened charcoal or a nib in hand.
He made observations leaning on the metal rail
at the Paris zoo ape house…Brute strength,
a razor and a chimneyed thought, trailing words
storied out beyond the city limits like clouds.

The President’s Mirrors

Another stolen election, the stunned reaction
of the radio and television population. An invitation
brought the fortune teller who approached the
president down the long marble hallway.
“What do you think about me?” the president
grinned sourly. “This is my second term.” He jabbed
a thumb at the television. On top of the machine, a
bust of Abraham Lincoln wore a white cowboy hat.
“That’s more’n him!”
The fortune teller stopped before the president’s
The president stood up, “What’s that you got
behind your back?!” He had reasons to be wary.
The fortune teller held out each hand holding
a round golden mirror.
When the president leaned over to look at his
reflections in them, all he saw was ink blackness, then
hundreds of ghostly skulls.
He asked the fortune teller, “Are those real

Empire At Work

America is terror
every wicked arrow
Rome before

at work
over there
killing the poor
stealing the gold
taking their land

I wonder
the war
will end

How Come?

I wasn’t on television for very long
I was on a program called How Come?
making a giant pair of inflatable sunglasses.
A few seconds worth of film for the day.
They may have been hoping for more
a shot of the boy levitating dramatically
riding the sunglasses out of the room
and into the air for a slow dissolving
pan of him disappearing into sky

Sam the Canary

The song seemed to have flown out of
Sam the canary. He stared out the cage
past the tapestry that mapped the wall.
A memory. A place far away and over
a sea of threads and patterns. It would
take all the wind in his wings to get him
there again.


The radios played birdsongs, from the latest thrill
to the warbling old tunes your grandparents knew.
Even the shop on the corner would have one or two
wooden cages in eaves to speaker out music while
you buy coffee for the trip on the morning trolley.
Wintering cold with a warm cup in hand, that last
pretty song would stick in your head while you went.

The Wooden Trombone

A blat to shake the lillypad roofs
and rattle the trembling glass

It may be more of a board
than a blast made of brass

We Are Together

Seeing things

The danger
is growing
and changing
what used to be

Fear is everywhere
a dog is barking
a cold night

We are traveling

We have water
we have forest
we have weather
and each other

Whatever happens
we are together

City Under Fire

Streets so old
they crackle

Another invasion
starved for dreams

it starts
in the streets

The Lucky Halibut

It sat in a lavender glow
neon and flashing window lights
the bubbles around it were frantic
the glass of its tank hummed
with strange delight
The Lucky Halibut was painted
on the sign, but nobody knew
what made it lucky or even if
it could bring luckiness to you
so there is sat, unknown in the sand
flat, held down by gallons of water
with a secret or not

From There

I remember
the bicycle
the light of day

We saw
each other

Your eyes
caught me

The weather
took over

From there

Franklin Lilacs

One time I was returning from work,
down Indian Street up to the corner
past the credit union, finally around
the lilacs on Franklin Street
then a left turn and a right
next to the old church steeple
there’s our house by the willow tree.
Some people were out on lawns
looking at the sky. I noticed it too
a silver thing hovering like a kite.

Pheasant’s Violin

Real life glimpse into my dream of 11/16/04
just before 6 AM when Rustle woke us up:

“I want you to get everybody in that
room, Pheasant,” I told him.
“Okay boss.” He ran a hand over the
violin case.
Then we went in and shut the door on
the hallway. There was a terrible music of
gunfire before the door rattled open again.
I came out holding my arm, Pheasant
holding the smoking violin case. I seethed,
“When I said everybody, I didn’t mean me too!”
“Sorry boss…”

One Way Suit

Arnold Nusfelder jostled with the crowd.
He was determined to get a good view of the
stage. All around him flags and paper signs
were waving like mad and when the music
started blasting fanfare out of the speakers,
everything got crazy. Arnold had to fight to
keep his position at the stage. He shoved a
fat man’s cowboy hat, and some shoulders
and rode a little closer to the noise. The
president was announced to a fury.
There he was. Arnold kept a tight
hand on the machine in his pocket as he
watched that new suit he designed move
and salute. Arnold knew he wouldn’t be
able to wait for long. The president’s
speech had barely gone more than a
couple simple broken sentences when
Arnold Nusfelder pressed the button.
At first the president shrugged
like pushing off a ghost, but as he began
to rise off the wooden stage, his face
whitened into a blank mask. He dropped
the microphone three feet off the flooring
as his special agents rushed around him
pulling on him, then Arnold Nusfelder and
most of the crowd could hear him plainly
bellow to be left alone. The president’s
face shone with sweat and fever as he
yelled, “Let me be! This is it!” He beamed,
“It’s the rapture!” He held his arms up like
a crab, “God’s taking me!” he gloated.
And away he went…above the heads of
the gathered crowd. Faster and faster til
his voice shrilled away and the dot that
was him was gone too.
Arnold Nusfelder the tailor had set
no limit on the anti-gravity suit. It would
give the president a glorious view of this
beautiful earthly creation before flinging
him into the black deep of outer space.

Bassoon Room

The Old Sea Captain liked to listen
when his granddaughter played the bassoon
filling the room so the whole dark wooden
house would resonate and the green pines
would bend towards the kitchen windows
and the ocean in the cove swilled up its banks
to fill every shell with the sound

The Numbers

All he had to do was open the door to her
store wearing a number 15 on his striped
shirt. She eyed him mercurially, and asked
him about it. He admitted he got the little
numbers at a sewing shop, that’s all, and
they talked and had coffee and listened to
Sinatra on the radio. She kept him going
in coffee and poured cups for other friends
who stopped by.
When he opened the door the next day
she was wearing a red shirt with a 16
stitched to it.
“Hey!” he said.
She brought their coffees and sat down
with him.
The day after he came by and sat
in the same kitchen chair.
It was her turn to be surprised.
He had sewn a zero to the end of 15
to make it 150.
She seemed slow preparing their coffee.
He looked at shoes.
The next day was rainy. He was thinking
he better get a job soon, for rent and food
and the other things that came with a price.
He was looking forward to the bicycle ride
in the rain though. He even put on his striped
number 150 shirt again.
He rode in under the eaves and parked and
left the bike leaning against a cold mannequin.
The door chimed him in. The store was a lot
warmer than the fall out there and he could
smell coffee brewing.
Behind the counter, she called hello to him.
She had a string of a billion numbers running
across her chest like a necklace.

Wurlitzer Porch

I took a right
onto Thompson Street
to visit that
old house of hers
my grandmother
must be gone
for ten years
some dream
made me go
her old house
repainted and different
and to my surprise
a giant Wurlitzer
filled the windows
on the porch

The Rock Thrower

Progression of a rock thrower
a series of stone markers
beginning with pebbles
glowed eggs close to shore
getting larger moving further
some flat and skipped
a few like boulders
tossed out with fury
probably as time goes on
rocks will get small again
until someone very old
sits beside the shore
rolls a pebble
off into the watery

The Cold Wall

It got cold
really cold
in that room
so before
it got worse
he had to
make repairs
tear down
the wall
put in
make it
but when
the plaster
fell off
he found
the posters
shoved in
by someone
before him
in vain
to make it
no wonder
it stayed cold
Bela Lugosi
Boris Karloff
those movies
were stuck
behind the wall

Bicycle Sail

A new idea went clattering
on the street downhill hitting
top speed among the slow

He steered the bicycle
by pulling on the sail shrouds
then the wind took him along

Migrating Birds

Over the rained on field
littered with pumpkins
broken shards like pottery
ostriches are flying south

The Talking Dog Store

She looked at them all at the talking dog store.
Finally she settled on a poodle who spoke French.
She also bought a bowl, a blanket, and records
so she could learn the language


Slow padded feet
take him down a path
green grass and pine overhead
leafy maples dapple light
across the fur on his back

Fur like dandelion fluff
Phinneas follows his old lady
through the rock fence cleft
crackling fallen leaf slow decent
to the place where land breaks

Rocks lead sharply to the sea
a sandy little cove
where they sit together
to rest bones and be alive

The tide is eternal
anytime of day
the water is here
or on the way


Early this morning just before I walked through the
greenbelt forest to get to the bus stop, I told myself,
"Whatever you do, don't think about Transylvania."
It was dark and cold and wet, and of course I did.
I made it through the woods without interlude, but
as I came out of the woods and was walking up the
street, there was a fearful racket of someone
bursting through the reeds next to the condos.
For some reason, I wasn't even surprised or
frightened, as a person dressed all in puffy white,
like the Michelan Man (but a short woman version)
appeared on the road next to me. It was too funny.
She was out of breath. I said, "Good morning,"
and passed on my way.

The Teether

Clouds of coal boiled out of the ship over ragged
whitecaps. Who knows what happened to the crew
and all but three of those passengers left on board.
The vast silhouette of steamer, surrounded by a bird ring.
Gulls rode into the blood red sun setting on the harbor.
A door sprung from the bolted hull and the family ghosted
out. Bright moonlight gleamed on the baby’s ivory face.
The machines of the city crackled and groaned and
rumbled all around in the air, high on elevated tracks,
noise across streets as carriages and carts.
Moving to a new city, the electric feeling of trying
to fall asleep there the first night kept them all staring
at the continuous play of lights and shadows on the walls.
Their baby was wide-awake. He had been teething all the way
on the journey from the docks to their rented room.
The only thing that kept him quiet was chewing on
a dried chip of meat. He gummed its blackened edges
to a soft pulp. His first taste of America. Eventually
at dawn he would fall asleep. And they would hide him
from the sun under a worn blanket made of old country cloth.

Anyone’s Poems

This evening the famous poet
reads in town ten minutes away
while I’m here in the gloom
lit only by a nightlight room
telling a story to fall asleep
feeling the wrong thing
wishing to storm from here
leave my daughter awake
to go be there

Even though I don’t
it will take a couple days
before I finally realize
the night I stayed home
is worth more than
anyone’s poems

The World Awaits

War is over
government overthrown
What democracy?
it’s crazy

Who can believe
what they say
It’s like a movie
made in 1948

Black and white
just like then
the world

A Goodbye Arm

Bells were ringing. They all scrambled out into
the alley as fast as they could. Their teacher was
waiting for them, the car was running, the windows
were open and they threw in bags and bags full of
money. When the car was filled and low to the ground,
Dr. Biocal was already behind the wheel waving to them
a goodbye arm lifting like a pterodactyl taking flight.

My Illusion

In my loss
to you

is clear

It’s my

I have


The Infinite Telescope

In her imaginary land
there’s an infinite telescope
She can see the whole universe
beautiful worlds to behold
It might seem like dreams
but what she sees is real
Back here where we live
she can show us how
Take a toilet paper roll
colored in stripes of crayon
Look through and see
wonders on the other side

Wake Up Saint

in sheep clothes
creep by night

is the shepherd?

Fast asleep

Wake up saint
out of dreams
move into light

The Goodwill Industries

He had developed a way to steal things from old
photographs. Any sight of candelabras, paintings,
jewelry, even cars, he would pull them out.
Sinister in his long black cloak and hat tipped
over his face, he slunk through fleamarkets
and garage sales and the Goodwill Industries.
Whenever he found a box of tattered photos or
shedding albums, he would grab them up and
search them for valuable memories.

Fred Again

For a brief strange amount of time, I opened the doors
to the Salvation Army and Goodwill to find my music.
This is always a fallback into years of wear, from the
clothes that hang and give the air its ghost, to the very
back wall where the records are tipped stacks in a bin.
I became familiar with the usual cast: Percy Faith,
everything with strings, cowboys, swingers, preachers,
patriots, dance crazes, and every once in while the
true oddity. Something that had the power to stand up
out of its pit of time and grab like a shaggy, ice-age
creature. Something named ‘Whistlin Joe’, on a pink
Decca Records label, by someone named Fred Lowery.
For 25 cents, the 45 single was given a whole new life,
played over and over for days until its eerie warbling
and spooky chorus became too much for one listener.
He ran across the room, ripped it from the turntable
and smashed it against the gray speckled wall.
That fit, that terrible wax demise seemed to have ended
a life. Even my joy of searching the musty world where
‘Whistlin Joe’ once lay entombed passed. As a last wish,
to serve eulogy to the person who had created such a stir
in my life, I felt duty bound to know what I could about
Fred Lowery. This was years before the computer
captured the logging of all human details, and the only
information on him I uncovered came from the few
lines in a thick reference book: “Blind whistling virtuoso
active in the late 30’s and 40’s. Attended Texas School
for the Blind in Austin…worked clubs and theatres;
some recording. Faded by the late 40’s; a few records
early 50’s.”
I kept the intact pink round record label, the very center,
the heart, all the remained of Fred Lowery’s 45 and have
carried it forever as a sort of holy relic.
How strange again that I would rediscover Fred Lowery
some five years later at the other edge of the continent,
in a retro-store dedicated to the hip and cool culture of
America’s past.
Filed in with the pristine Capitol recordings of Sinatra
was an entire album by Fred Lowery entitled, ‘Walking
Along Kicking The Leaves…’ Surprise! He has risen again,
wrapped in a Technicolor sleeve, whistling with orchestra,
a bona-fide cult member of those who only seem to fade.

I Know

Thank you
this night
to the rain

I can hear
car wheels

I know
on the lawn
soggy as
Old Ireland
a stretch of wire
goes to find
the hawthorn tree

Christmas lights
tell every
passing soul
how we feel

The Visions

He wanted his wife to know that when she slept
a cloud formed above her. Cinema images began
appearing on it and he watched her dreams, until his
weary movied eyes closed down. Then he was in
a field that used to be. It became a drive-in movie
theater with a big screen facing the sea. The night
was lit by stars as things from outer space were
shown. Monsters, car races, lovers fighting the
establishment. When the drive-in was sold and
turned into a parking lot, the visions were left
hovering above where projectors used to air.
Cars were parked for work, but nobody could see…
no, not completely…there was a room across all
the roofs and rainy atmosphere where two people
were sleeping. They saw what was happening,
they were part of it, and in the morning, they

Only One

a thought
the start

the heart

There is
only one

A Little Spark

Three days of rain
the creek arose
beyond its banks
washing cold sand
up among the reeds
over the grave
where our goldfish lays

If there’s a little spark
left of life in him
he must have joined
that sweep of water
shining downstream

cover: rosa frost
written by allen frost during
the fall season september 22-december 21, 2004

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Last Ohio Morning


The Last Ohio Morning was written during the summer of 2004.
The words began as a two week tour of Ohio, August 25-Sept 5,
but when I got back to Bellingham, I couldn’t stop writing it
until Fall.

Ohio Motors
The Liberty
This is Who
The Silver Dollar Man
Joey the Mop
After the Storm
Dust and Feathers
Dust & Feathers: The Television Series
The Old Rustle
Another Life
Ohio, Japan
Listening to Larry
Walk in the Woods
Second Grade
House Cleaning
Chocolate Hair
Jumping in the Sea
Other Means
The Last Wind
The Next President
Slow Game
Unsleepy Hollow
The Freeway House
Pressed Flowers
Broken Chair
The Pretty Boy Floyd River
The Turn-Around Road
Rented Tree
Follow Your Friend
Look Out Windows
Poe in Japan

Ohio Motors

All day long the motors go
a hundred hornets bake in the hive
The cicadas steer the heat wave clamor
a luff of lazy breeze bends the corner
a cardinal shoots red across the flat
green fronds of the magnolia tree
Lake Erie throws a fit
crickets train clatter
the yellow lawn chairs fry
and wait out the sun for
the slow rise of an orange
jungle moon

The Liberty

There’s The Liberty
where you used to live
closed windows watching
the doors gone through
I start thinking of you
driving past too fast
to see anything but leaves

This is Who

So this is who walks around at 2 AM
in the neighborhood all blacked out
except for the tall amber street lamps
spaced every block and a half
I’m out walking the baby
in charge of wide-eyed insomnia
when the leaves of the willow
rattle behind us and ahead
a rabbit darts over the street
silent as a dream going home
to sleeping home

The Silver Dollar Man

Blue lights were after him. His bolt across the lot from
the carwash left a trail of stolen quarters. It didn’t matter,
he had to get away. With 23 pounds of silver in each of his
pockets he sunk footsteps into the sod becoming mud at
the edge of the wetlands. Hobbled by the weight of dollars,
he wobbled his way into the bulrushes, cracking stalks aside.
Carp flapped and thrashed showing yellow scales. A shot
clocked above his head terrifying blackbirds up into a cloud.
A heron beat to wing. And it was happening, he was vanishing.
The swamp clung to him and pulled him deeper. He was gone,
under the reeds, the lily pads waving over in the wind of voices
losing him from the shore. Round little green leaves small as
penny rivets swerved and spread again to cover his bubbles
and submerge.

Joey the Mop

The bleak industrial flat of the land where the city
stacked its rust and crumbles is resting place to
Joey the Mop who ended up dumped in the junk
at the back end of a black sedan trunk in 1951.
Anyone wondering what happened knew better
than to go looking. Let the years sandwich
him between layers of decay and oil spills
forgotten unless something bubbled up

After the Storm

After the storm
beneath a lid of clouds
we’re walking at 3 AM

Time to be calm
the dragon is gone
what it left is felt
on bare feet

A warm shallow skin
of dark green water
on the street

Dust and Feathers

At last
caught sight of
the Carolina Parrot

Long lost
kept in glass
a ghost of dust
and feathers

Dust & Feathers:
The Television Series

The water reflected the clouds and violet sky.
Below the surface a few fathoms down there’s
a strange sight, bent and lit by green rays of sun…
The mirage-like vision of two people playing cards,
dealing across a round table littered with silver coins
and dollar bills, spilled bottles sprouting green tendrils,
stacked piles of sand. A shoal of fish meanders past.

Then the painted view was chopped by oars digging
into the foamy swell above. “I see them, Dust!”
Owen Feathers announced. He fumbled with
the buttons on the front of his Hawaiian shirt.
Ben Dust held the oars up so they dripped little diamonds
off. His stern expression revealed his still smoldering
disappointment that the department couldn’t spring for
a motorboat ripping with horsepower.
It didn’t seem dignified for two officers to be tossing
in some rented rowboat. With a quick violent motion,
he stowed the oars and threw off his leather jacket.
“Let’s get them,” he growled.

Park scene, author sitting on a curved wooden bench
in shade of an oak tree. With one foot, he’s rocking a baby
buggy, his eight month old son is asleep. Background sound
of crickets and lawnmower faint rumbling two blocks away.
Summer six o’clock sunlight blue sky, peaceful.
In his hands he makes a story out of turning three pages,
paper from his daughter’s spiral-bound notebook.

Joey the Mop reached out the bony arm of a tattered striped
Italian suit. His white fingers clutched the winning fan of cards.
As the man with silver dollar eyes flipped the table over,
bubbles shot to the surface and burst around the unmanned
rowboat. The water was flecked with two dissolving silhouettes…
a coat of dust and ghost white feathers.

The Old Rustle

He gave us a tour of the Edison home
a very old man with the same shape as our son
the same name too and he had to say,
“I didn’t know anyone was called that today.”
And then he went on to show us room by room
the inventor’s life as contours and floors.
“This crescent moon bedspread took 3 years to make.”
“Edison never heard a bird after 12 years old.”
“Archaeologists dug the mud from this plate,”
stopping once again to ask, “How did you name him?”
“It was our daughter,” we said. “And we liked the sound.”
So then we went on. Until Rustle got worn out
Laura took him goodbye, he was needing new air.
Now it was Rosa, her grandpa and me and
an old lady who spoke in a feeble derail,
she was next to go, saying, “I feel ill…”
lurching at doors and I joked, “Who’s next?”
But we made it through, and old Rustle did too.
At last outside the kitchen into the glade,
tall red calla flowers and green elephant ears,
he showed us the map on wooden tiers.
This place is full of names and memories
that haven’t changed in years

Another Life

Every year
more disrepair
concrete streets
deal on the hill
cracking open
like eggshell
to reveal
another life

The nature
of having, losing
finding again

It’s simple as
the sidewalk
while we go
pushing wheels
over green


to the air
since 1853
butterflies and bees
soot wings
to gather
charcoal clover
by the glow
of bessemer


After home, the cigar store was the first door.
He dropped a bet on lucky 207 then he walked
with the rest of the shift up those metal stairs
high over the railyards, down to the furnaces
on the Ohio river


Good morning and goodbye
the last Ohio morning
we wake a dozen white moths
as we walk across wet lawn

Ohio, Japan

This new morning
a red sun rose
on Lake Erie

Listening to Larry

A white heron
takes off
at the end
of your worry

The air lifts
both of them

Walk in the Woods

I don’t have a camera
we have to remember it
by heart

Our walk in the woods
stops for the picture
of sun through leaves
onto you

The little silver creek
with words in it
a ghost white spider
the unseen thread
guiding it


A late summer rain
wets the sidewalks
and all the old
forgotten chalk drawings
crisscrosses and scribbles
those hopscotch games
bloom like gardens
for the day
until after the night
In the morning
when the next dew
washes them away


Capture in your hands
that blue speed of water
pushing under the bridge

Second Grade

Second grade started today
I got home from the job
stepped off the bus and saw
the kids playing on the grass
Rosa’s friend is wearing camouflage
I don’t have to wonder why
Her father is going to the war
and this is what’s happening here
on this plot of land, my home
some things seem the same
I have to cut the lawn
my wife and baby son
watch me get close to them
It’s so good to be home
then I hear something like rain
or water bailed on the driveway
I walk around our parked car
so I can see
the 4 year old forgotten girl
the sister of Rosa’s friend
sitting in the dust by the wheel
picking up handfuls of gravel
throwing them on down the hill
I say hello but as I walk away
I feel the hot sting of those rocks
as she targets me


Like Al Capone
holding out a hand
across the shadowy room
Rosa’s grandfather
explained the art
of making a fist
“Keep the thumb
outside the other fingers
or else it might break
when you hit”

House Cleaning

It’s hard to throw out
what’s been around
dragged down by sentiment
Think about what it meant
think what used to be

Even though I know
what is here
is only transitory
everything is caught
in possibility

Chocolate Hair

“Oh that chocolate hair!”
moaned the dentist
in love with the girl
in his chair

Jumping in the Sea

The trip back took a while
as the boy kept jumping in the sea
each time the outboard got going full
the waves splaying off in a white rush
the boy would suddenly stand and leap
from the hull out into the deep green
sink in a sheath of bubbles thick as leaves
then bob back up behind the boat
the cold shock of hitting black water
going under to another world
bigger beyond feeling, only rising
out of there for lack of air

Other Means

Caught up in these
ferocious war years
I set a plastic trap
in the cupboard
without first trying
other means

The next day
I checked under there
the trap had sprung

It was no victory
the mouse was so small
I could have caught it
in a child’s glove
and let it go alive
in the field
across the street

The Last Wind

This time we find
the last wind of the game
dropped into the dark

It’s all a mess
war is failure
four years of fear
sets back humanity
like a broken light
in the night

The whole creation
is corruption
who can we hold
our hands to?

The Next President

We stand in a line
to see the next president
when it starts to rain
low gray clouds ram
and make lightning
the drops falling
warm as tears

The Ohio Valley
fills with the sound
streets are awash
as we wait underneath
newspapers and umbrellas
some just wait in it
wet to the skin

This place has seen
its share of change
hard times and war
and disasters before
anything that happens
has a history
and what will be
is why we’re here

Slow Game

The town is back again
familiar names and neighbors
laid out in grass avenues

Alive with the wind
warm sunlight and the far off
sounds of music and cars

All the stones
tip and slant
like a slow game
of dominoes

A dust coated cat
wakes on the weeds
trolleys off to hunt
among the slate


every hour
goes by
a way
to make
a day
it all

Unsleepy Hollow

They stay awake
night is never dark
lit by talk
and pumpkins
carved without
fear of midnight
laughing at how
things turn out

The Freeway House

Some rare times
the sound of cars

the freeway house

Pressed Flowers

Discovering them
by accident

Now I see
hidden botany

She keeps colors
pressed in a book

between pages


It’s the book
open, learn
we’re all here
for a reason

Find out
don’t forget


Open eyes
are doors
open them

Broken Chair

to the floor
calling out for
hammer and nails
a fresh yellow leg
made of fitted pine


Sunday morning
through the woods
into meadows

A sunflower tree
deep grass dew

Wading into fall
the sour breeze
under curling leaves
plums and apples
on the ground

The last fruit
for hornets
too busy
to sting


A moth upon
your wooden door

A knock so soft
you wouldn’t know

The Pretty Boy Floyd River

The river became a man
walked through town
and stopped at the bank

He opened the door
and squeaked over
the marble floor

He waited in line
just like anyone
hummed a little
familiar song
then got his chance
at the teller’s window
where he washed
back into water
swept the place clean
with a green surge
like Pretty Boy Floyd
taking all the money
out glass doors

The Turn-Around Road

Even in darkest night
the way is lit
lamps in the leaves
stars are little lights
like a runway
swing the wheel
on the cul-de-sac
fly out of there


I wear
your smoke
in my clothes
the memory
of barstool
you said
is still
on me
but I
can’t see
out here

Rented Tree

Two houses ago
on muddy Grant Street
it got fierce one night
the wind cut the wire
with a broken bough
so the telephone company
sent an angry truck over
to fell the corner tree

They left a ghost
a waist cut in half

We read the wet rings
counted the years
it once occupied in
that big shape of air

On the ground
in snapped ruined green
we found survivors
violin wood chestnuts

We took some in pockets
to plant in the troughs
our car tires drove
into the soft loam
of our rented backyard

Follow Your Friend

Follow your friend on
the crop that isn’t
this is a field of mud

Each step up
needs somewhere
to land

Try not to sink
when you come down

He has left
prints hollowed
with heels of water

Look Out Windows

Before the day
ends and
you’re ready
to sleep
look out windows
see the sky
think about it
where you’ve been
what you’ve done
and what will happen

Poe in Japan

He took a skeleton with sails over the Pacific,
crashed through two bad storms when he prayed
for the end, then in a gray morning stood at the rail
to see the skyline turn into land. Japan. Soon he saw
the pagoda towers, the pines, the wooden houses,
pennants of fish, dragons, bright creatures that kited
on the air. When he stepped ashore, all covered in black,
he wobbled from lack of ground for so long. He knew
he was being looked at, he felt the picture frame on him.
He wore it awkwardly up past the fishing things beside
the shore. He hoped to find an address someone gave him.
The whole reason for the journey was scratched across
in his tree branch writing on a torn scrap of paper he kept
caught like a dove in a pocket. When looking for somewhere
in a place like this, he was just another wind blown off the sea,
someone who looked lost as a ghost.