A TURN

He is never certain what to do on days
like this one, when the winter takes
a particularly nasty turn, the temperature
hovers at utter emptiness, and the wind
elects to try to enfold everything it can reach
in a coat of frost, that bleaches life away.
He walks each day, through the nearby park
if the weather is the least bit cooperative,
through the neighborhood when not, where
at least he can take a small shelter from the wind
in the shadow of houses closed up tightly,
life walled away within, smarter, he imagines
than he is, his fingers ill-gloved, slowly losing
all feeling, but this is his practice, something
he does because it requires doing, heeding
an edict from an unspoken voice. And later
emerging from a hot shower, feeling limbs
restored, he glances at the weather in hopes
the next day will be kinder, and slow in coming.

GOING

Mingus
            twisting 
roiling
                blood of streets
       child’s cry
                        laughter of old men
            s
             w
               o     
                  o
                      p
                          i
                             n
                                    g
            perched
on a spit valve

Kerouac
                        flying
            rainbowed
    rolling slowly
            e  l  e  c  t  r  i  c
                  imbibing Bukowski
       manchild
                           locked
                                                onto a page.

ELLIPSE

He lies on the steam grate
under a thin blanket and plastic
garbage bags, sleeping soundly
lulled by vibrations of a passing car,
back to the Ellipse and grand white house,
oblivious to footfalls of tourists and joggers.
Steam seeps upward through his tattered clothes,
he is back in-country, lying at the fringe
of the jungle, awash in sounds, neat
cast up from furnace earth, cutting
through fatigues and the heavy canvas
and steel toes of the boots, into skin,
to pool on muscles held taut, twitching
at the first heard whoop of chopper blades
or stirring of branches and flora
in still summer air which hangs, a shroud.
Sun rises slowly, bathing the obelisk
in a faint peach glow, he rolls, crushing
the fading, wrinkled photo of three boys
lost, from a different world, standing
in beer soaked mirth, leaning on rifles.
One night, trees oozed forth
shadows, black angels, and his hand
resting in a pool of blood and viscera
with whom he had roamed the bars
of Saigon and Bangkok, invincible knights
before their armor turned to rust.


First appeared in Luna Negra, Spring: 1997

THE GATHERING

They gather this time every week,
they would feel lost if they did otherwise.
The don’t do it out of any sense of duty
or higher calling, and they expect
nothing in return for having done so.
They aren’t even following directions
or obeying some unwritten rule.
They object to most rules,
demand logic before even pausing
to consider requests for action.
Holidays do throw off their schedule
but they work around them as best they can.
Theirs is a joyous group
and only the swings groan
under their laughter as their feet
reach up to kick the clouds,
before night falls on the playground.