Human Resources The woman in HR had hard eyes in a doughy face. I had come for advice on what to do about my sadness. Most of what I said she didn’t understand and didn’t want to. In lieu of actual help, the woman in HR placed a box of tissues on the corner of her desk.
At Home In Hell Yes, I feel comfortable here. This is obviously where I belong. There's always pain, but I'm used to that. I've known it all of my life. The red hot lake isn't too bad, once you get used to it. And, believe me, you actually begin to look forward to the pitchfork stabs. I guess it's how you know that the Devil cares about you.
"Blinded" Walking back into yesterday young and strong unafraid ready to love eternity But little did we know what was waiting behind the sunsets.
What Does It Take? “Dear Elaine,” she writes on another postcard. “I’ve been thinking, thinking. Today. About my ex-husband. You remember him. Right? The tall guy. Always in a hurry. Yeah. That was him. Couldn’t walk with me like a normal person. No. He had to zoom ahead. Always. Like a rocket. On those long legs of his. And I’d have to yell at him. To get his attention. To make him stop. And then. Watch him look surprised. I mean. He never realized I wasn’t there. Invisible. Evidently. That was me. Spent most of my marriage talking to the back of his head. Conversation. Not his thing. While I was talking. To him. Trying. He’d walk away. Said he thought I was finished. Oh, really? Too hyper. Him. To stand still. To listen. Even though he was chatty. Yeah. He was. Constantly. Mumbling. Mostly. Entire conversations. He’d have. With me. When I wasn’t in the room. Important things. Things I needed to know. He’d say to an empty room. I’d hear a mumbling noise. Somewhere in the house. And I’d have to yell at him. To get his attention. To make him stop. Remind him. You know. That I’m not in the same room. Invisible. In our marriage. Evidently. That was me. So here’s the thing. What does it take for a man to stop? To look you in the eye. Listen. Respond. With more than one word. Can men do that? A conversation. Two people. In the same room. Talking to each other. Back and forth. Give and take. Is that possible? For a man. Any man? Tell me. I’d like to know.”
I THINK ABOUT DEATH ALL THE TIME I think about death all the time: Yours, mine, hers, his, Ours. When I am at work Or at the supermarket Or sitting and drinking As I listen to country, folk and rock n roll Music I fill in the spaces of my thoughts Imagining my death And yours And theirs. The room grows dark And my heart grows dark And I think about my impending death And fill with curiosity. When I die Will you honor me, will you cry for me? Will you still deny me like Peter denied Jesus, Like a child unwilling to repent? As the years pass after I am gone, will you be washing dishes And looking out the window, Seeing the clouds passing over the tempestuous bay Before a summer storm, Think of me suddenly and shudder with loss? Will you even remember me? When I die and then you die Will we meet in the valley Under a crescent moon And finally hold hands as we make a vow Or will my energy just wallow aimlessly With the ashes of my spent useless body? I think of everyone and I think of their deaths: Anne Sexton breathing in poison, rowing away from God. Adams and Jefferson holding hands and dying together And hundreds of miles apart. The death of Christ In agony on the cross. The death of my mother And the death of your mother. The death of Gram Parsons and Gene Clark, Drunk no more, singing no more. The death of Augustine of Hippo Who said “Wipe your tears and do not cry, If you love me. Death is nothing.” Life is everything.
A Congregation of Poets for Dougie Padilla On the way to your poetry reading I saw a “congregation” of turkeys They were praising Jesus by the side of the road God only knows their denomination In the Badlands I’ve seen prairie dogs in their towns praying on holy ground facing east with their tiny hands folded. Shalom! and the marmots meditating up on Beartooth Pass all seemed like devout Buddhists and every fish I ever caught was a Baptist Sometimes I wonder… What is the doctrine of trees, and are rocks really orthodox? Where can I find a blessed congress of monkeys or a herd of sacred cattle that aren’t branded? Last October I saw 30 deer at Vespers in a hayfield — their humble heads bowed in silence a choir of birds was singing aloft.
The Reaper Sooner or later, the Reaper’s Coming for you. No big deal. Did you want to live forever With all the disappointments In life, all the jerks and a-holes Making you miserable? There’s some comfort in the Thought of checking out and Leaving all this behind. Of course, breathing is good. You can always appreciate some Agreeable cuisine. And there’s That occasional piece of nookie That still curls your toes. Think about it. The good times Didn’t outweigh the bad. But, Damn, some of those good times Were damn good. Maybe, I’m not ready to go just yet. If Death shows up, I’ll just Send him next door or to Handi Mart for a latte.
Doug’s Life of Crime started almost as soon as he was able to know what thieving was: taking stuff that didn’t belong to you and not getting caught. We were maybe 13 when he said there was this empty house up the road where they had free stuff and you could just go in and take what you wanted. When we got there, I saw that meant climbing inside through a broken window to load stuff onto a stolen shopping cart; stuff you scammed from inside. It was pretty obvious this wasn’t stuff people were giving away. “I’m not going in there.” I said. “Coward.” “Damn straight, I am.” The cops nailed Doug wheeling a cart load of radios, toasters, clocks and whatever else was small enough to fit in the wagon and looked like something people could use. He had to appear in court and his old man went way beyond ballistic. That’s how Doug learned his old man knew how to beat you silly and not leave marks. It was skill he learned in the army during the war.
The January Effect The years grow shorter as the winters get longer Yesterday I heard a rock star say he might only have ten more summers He didn’t sound confident Who knows what life sees in us— what it wants to be in us or how to make time a friend you love to hate when spring is so far off and the days keep running away without ever saying goodbye.
Cattleman I find myself fiddling with my poems Picking and poking and prodding Like some cattle rancher Pushing the heifers to greener pastures. I shove the words together Hoping they feel like their inspiration Shoved through a tiny gate, one word at a time Perhaps a poem of poems is cliche But it is one I don’t think I will try to move Let it graze these lands to dust