Idles into surplus
a spare tool
at the back of a drawer.
Submits to the corner lounger
opaque and vaguely sad.
Lies waiting for them to call
him back to himself.
Bathes his bulk
in the flickering blue glow.
Floats in a pool
of sausages and milk.
Throws the shadow
of calloused hands
heraldic against the wall.
Slumps into the dreams
the TV dreams.
Allows the night fall.
Today I Felt at Home so I Made This Poem
After months of heat
thunder to the west rattles
the world's aluminum roof.
The nature of this place
like a wounded rattler.
To plunge and plunge again --
palmetto to saw grass to scrub oak.
The nature of this place sprawls
the mind's parched hide.
The hill folk that claimed it
somehow fit the place,
completed its slur of sun and distance
with their own blank rage
Clenched Baptists who
sold grassland and forest for vacant lots,
harvest their crop of retribution
(crowns of stars and burning coals).
Through all their engines
and livestock together,
they drone the hymn
to money, keys, desire,
the three that nests in the one,
the Jesus driving in with the merchandise.
Knobbed fists scratch after all that shines
but the dirt forgets them,
smooths back their names
to a stretch of white.
They abandon even their own,
the ones that watered and fed
like them on iron red sand;
fire ant, scorpion, horned toad,
prickly pear, armadillo,
flowering yucca flashing its blades,
all that's barbed, bristled, shelled, spiked.
A scuttle across sand
then neon green blinking
from under a limestone shelf.
Pale tent poles of God's Big Top
drive themselves down
gladly breaking bedrock.
They clear the land
for the dispensation that's always near,
gleaming mirages of metal and glass,
place without place.
Sun burns through closed lids.
Everywhere, the bleached shell
of prarie cracks.
At the restaurant called Restaurant
in the town on the outskirts of itself,
the old boys gather.
They crackle haloes of failure.
They come to chew their gravel
clean down to sand,
order a rant
with a side of exile please.
Who said rapture?
Who said Meat Science?
The new lumps and the horn of bone.
When the water's been pumped
out of the cow pond
and the plains brown with grass rot
and tilt the milk of sky
I drink with ranch hands
in their horse trailer of house.
We share cracked-tooth laughter.
A live wasp nest, their chandelier,
hangs its reckless music over us.
The slur of town grows
along the highway,
a hand sprouting extra toes,
The wires whine.
A yellow square of window
opens the distance.
Inside, a bleery voice shouts
"I want my goddamn money
and I want my goddamn keys!"
chomp on forgetness.
Swallow and rush down the dark.
Bring this homeles
Rodeo Crew back home.
In the afternoon,
kids carry plastic bags of trash
across a pasture, They stop
at a pillar of smoke.
It speaks gone, blurs to a weather
no one can erase or possess.
The Morning After the Flood
Across the road the firetruck was steaming.
Its wheel pulled a taut rope
out of the creek over the bridge railing.
A throng clotted around me drawn by the hope,
the whining engine, clouds and flashing light.
(The sudden sharp smell of canned soup
cooking made me want to vomit.)
The hoist seemed forever.
Then it lifted ceremoniously into sight,
purple, bloated, lightly goateed.
Under the arms, the cord yanked like a noose.
The paunch billowed from the Harley t-shirt.
A typically dirtball was the consensous.
Stilled and dripping from its umbillical knot,
miscarried twenty years late,
it ran a chill through us who couldn't see
or turn away, but only watch
ourselves gently licked by shame.
This fat kid, failed biker was laid
like a fertilizer bag on the grass
by the curb. "Anybody know his name?"
Pressed into a kind of community there,
we were apart in all circling the same.
"Ain't no badass no more," someone muttered
but I coould only stare at my hands.
The fog of crowd slowly cleared
back to shuttered griefs, badasses everyone.
I peered through my blinds off and on.
Like a giant child's abandoned doll
he lay uncovered there for an hour and when
a drizzle began to fall on our state again,
an orange tarp was thrown for a pall.
American Family Portrait
Aunts Mavis and Edna, uncle Earl,
if they existed would figure in a poem
of sorts, say, about the trombone slide
of memory, desire, nostalgia
fingering the glass panes.
The fir tre shudders its cloud
of ice crystals to the ground.
The real aunts and uncle refuse to show
on time, won't reheaarse when
and if they do, casually bruise
the fruit in my crystal bowl.
The fog of cigarette and cigar smoke
floats a gentle sickness.
Drunken cackles stab
like those spears of ice.
And this is your life
and it gets bigger, spreads in wider circles.
America this is your work
The acidic drone
of a cash register rasps at sleep.
The first characters never were,
the others no longer are.
As we leave this thrown-together
movie house, we scurry past
the squalor of flourescence and urine reek
for the cool forgetting of our cars.
The Absolute Assembly
(after C-SPAN, 4 a.m.)
They convene around noon
in their alabaster vault by the sea,
to read love letters, file rumors,
vote on shapes of twigs,
annex territories of dread and batteries,
question the allegiance of algae,
appoint a task force on the science of repose.
The Speaker rises to name you
Comptroller of the Four Winds.
It passes with pomp to the thunderous chords
from the Committee on Bouzouki.
Unworthy of the burden,
you mount the steps.
As he annoints you with a wreath
of concrete and wall maps
you are already forgotten.
They trundle oout at three,
sincere and bloated,
eager for the hazy summer evening.