The Poet Learning to Fear God

The mood of trees
is a prayer relayed
on the curled lips of the wind
that blows in across the neighbor’s field
and rushes my squinted
eyes like sunbeam bullet holes
weeping light and dust
from branches above.

The message’s tone might
depend upon the soulful lilt
of leaves whistling like tea
or a cheerful young boy
calling his dog—

Is the mood a simple ambience?
Or, a picture frame
that holds closed my inner world
of hesitant smiles and groans,
fragile as a porcelain Mona Lisa?

The trees’ mood is sometimes made
of what you will it:
I suggested
domestic pleasantries
like the teapot
and backdoor whistles.

But give me the forest
that makes me stand
so still
I hold my breath
for fear
of waking the air
and growling, hear
it chasing me home
to replace dampened
mossy underclothes
and wet,
chesty cough.

For only in that hideous exile
can a fugitive stay
in ever-changing skies
whose jagged thunder-jaws
well up tears behind
the leaves across one’s eyes.

Thus I thought justified
my desire to run among this chance
rain and weather
yet perpendicular
remained escape to belonging—
one needs be at times
caught at the neck,
teeth sunk,
to feel the wild seen
in creatures’ watching eyes.

I sought beyond the fogged undergrowth
only with the superstition
of foreigners lost
without a map, seeking
to prove among self and city
a misplaced cultural citizenship,

and I failed to see estrangement
in that refracted hostility
shifting through the bush
and then the absence of eyes
in the bush,
that scanned the sudden precariousness
entering the forests and swamps
in my breath and under
dirtied fingernails clinging
to every step.

The eyes are what I seek,
but mostly as the lens that lets me hunt
the thoughts that won’t stop
running into
those haunting visions
watching me stumble.

The rioting ranks of clarity
that escaped my head
in rushing, wild glances,
want payment of time
and gaze by whispers leading
me ever deeper in
the muck:

“Don’t take the corduroy, minstrel,
it will jostle your feathers
“There are marsh places
which will hide flying thoughts
keep them still,
unless you mean to avoid that place
where you can’t hide
from the siren-song of mud-cling.
Search the City of God
that rests beneath upturned roots.”
Upon arrival, you will breathe the mood
like the trees and sing
with new light in your eyes.”



I have never seen
a more perfect partner
than the second sky in the millpond
and the leaping sparrow
that arabesques through dimensions
to promenade and flirt
across the shining ballroom floor

June afternoons

I love June afternoons—when clover blooms
and thistle thorns swirl like Starry Night
as the sun beating down melts a Van Gogh
lens over the pastoral in my front yard,
and the shaded greens of hardwood
cathedrals drift longer, leading
me into the places and times without sunlight until
(I don’t know what time it is)
I miss dinner in favor of the stinging
blackberries of dusk leaving
blood-red stains on my arms
and I love June nights

Small Town Walking Tour

This sidewalk
—yes sir, with all the cracks—
once felt the steps of a bustling mill-town
and Buffalo Bill Cody

This is a place peppered with heirloom
descendants of Johnny Appleseed
and his trees and the streets
are either royal or boreal

and while this yellow house was white
for ages, it is the original color now
—it’s not wrong, your memory
just doesn’t reach back that far, ma’am—

The old bank building rounding a hundred
years ago had a violent robbery
—no, it doesn’t really look like
a bank now, does it—

and that belfry above the Universalists
—yes, it has window slats missing—
is old too.

I-75 Rush Hour

It’s running with bulls,
stampeding, semis running
over the raucous rumble-strip
with a sucker-punctured rear
tire. Parked like sardines in
a writhing school, brakes
clamoring for relief, bands
knotted together on CB
radio, sea of grass around them.

Each dash of the lane-lines like a tooth
on a grinding table saw, sprinting
along and splitting the rippled
concrete like a bowsprit,
splintering the waves of
exhausted fume-sputters.

Pontificating from Sinai; or, How to be Helpful

Pastor preached on pontification
or rather how not to do that
which won’t be found welcoming.

Others look across the sidewalk
cracks, split between family,
work lost, life’s work not yet
ceased, or begun.

Pastor disavowed pontification
or rather why those might
see it thus-becoming.

Be simple, I thought, smile
as that man did to me.
The flash of teeth and recognition
of mutual struggle—familiarity.

Pastor preached pontification
in his sermon, pulpit-driven
beat drumming palms in rhythm with his voice.

The smile faded but his eyes
stayed on me as he strode next
to me, umbrella share, fanned above
the diminished strand between he and I.

Pastor stated—I didn’t want to—
pontificate. Sinai spoke, commanding,
motioned towards the one beside me.

But he had left, umbrella in my hand,
his bus removed. I smiled to a woman
beyond the sidewalk, cracked her teeth
open as I offered a half of his umbrella.

Pastor asked ‘Who are we reaching?’
outside pontification. I didn’t know

The rain fell beyond the umbrella.
We just talked, simply, and
she thanked me. I didn’t need
a whole umbrella.

Pastor preached on kindness—why
pontificate? He could share a story
of a bus-stop in the rain.