Friday, July 19, 2013

It’s Physics

Michael Long’s head was smoking
after our warm-up run in PE class.
It was his first day and he was fast –
faster even than Mr. Baughman.
But more impressive than his speed
was the fact that his head was smoking.
I’d never seen that before, even though
hot and sweaty defines middle school boys,
and on cool mornings we loved breathing steam
like adolescent dragons flexing fire-breathing lungs.
But, nobody’s head had ever smoked.
I remember wondering if it was because
Michael Long was black. There weren’t any
African-Americans in America in those days.
People were White, Black, Brown, or Oriental.
I remember asking myself if Michael Long’s
head smoked because he was black. I wondered that
even though I’d never seen any other black person’s
head smoke. I played football and basketball
with Darryl and Jeffery Tolbert all the time
and neither of their heads had ever smoked.
When I slept over at their house the only odd thing
about them was the way they woke up loudly
against the heavy congestion in their chests.
But that wasn’t because they were black,
that was because they had asthma. All the Tolberts did.
I’ve seen lots of people’s heads smoke since
that autumn morning almost forty-years ago. All colors
of people have heads that smoke. Turns out
that all that smoke pouring out of Michael Long’s head
was from the heat-exchange between the super warm blood
racing through his face and brain and the soggy gray air
we’d all just run through. It’s not that complicated.



Vine Leaves Literary Journal - Summer 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Space

I have a friend who, like me,
has a couple of full-grown sons.
When the subject turns to them,
he spends a lot of time looking down,
his voice dims, his thick hands hang.

His oldest, especially,
doesn’t have much to say to him
these days. He won’t tell me exactly
what happened between them,
just wags his head and folds-up,
but I know my friend.

I can imagine mistakes
made on his part.
Maybe there was an eviction
or two or more until one finally stuck.

I know my friend,
how he lacks imagination.
I figure there was
a lot of looking into the sky
with upturned palms, but
I can only guess at such things.

Over the years, I watched both boys
pass their dad in height and humor –
could always tell they were his, though.
It was more the quick-draw laughter
than the brown eyes that gave it all away. 

I’d sit with a beer and watch 
them crack him up
then slide their eyes for a peek
at his laughing.
I’m not sure he ever saw that.

Well, he’s pretty closed most of the time.
Sort of opened-up the other day, though.
Surprised to have gotten a text
from his oldest,
there was a spring in his step. 

He showed me the message, 
Not trying to be mean.
Just need some space.
Showed me his reply, too,
Fair enough.



Northwind - Summer 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

Work Boots

Jackson is two now,
Dimples nearly gone for good.
Pull, cross, hook.

It is still dark this morning.
It is dark every morning.
Pull, cross, hook.

He likes to wake-up when I do,
Watches me lace my boots.
Pull, cross, right eye, left eye.

His blue eyes are rapt.
His database is smoking.
Tie. Re-tie. Tug the frayed denim.

He looks at me now. Smiles.
Still such an easy thing.



Full of Crow Poetry - July 2013

Clatskanie

All she knew was that this place came with a mill
and logs, steady work, and a little white house.
Far away from familiar-and-binding ties,
she bundled baby Emma and followed
her husband to another fresh start.

At twenty-two, she was still more afraid of the dark
than the daylight. The mill, with its weekly paychecks,
let her pretend the cold corners of the little white house
were all her fault and not due to his shrugging and grunting,
his preference for the perfumed little thing
at the bar after work.

Still, she prayed for him at the other little white house
in the tiny mill-town. She forced herself to give thanks
for the mill and sang hymns at the top of her lungs
and taught little Emma how to choke down tears
by the grace of God.

Between nursery rhymes and Amazing Grace,
the green in her eyes turned steadily jade,
and the deeper the color, the more she could see
the deep inside of things; all the darkest shadows
of brightest daylight.

A U-haul truck is hard to pack when your only help
is a toddler with questions, but she managed
to scrape-up enough humility to return
to the familiar-and-binding ties with everyone intact –
Emma, the cats, and the still secret beauty
of one last try.



Full of Crow Poetry - July 2013