Old Horse Barn
Twenty-six daily mucked stalls
for a bevy of broken down thoroughbreds
still hoping for the dreams their thin legs rest on.
A water trough, a feed box,
old hoses that crack in winter,
harbinger of flies in summer,
clouds of DDT.
A teen ripped from my city
neighborhood, home, friends, school
by my gambling father.
Isolated now, listening to Hambone,
an older black farmhand,
stroking one of his thirty-nine cats,
stroking my pain.
He urged me not to run away.
A Selfish Wish
I attended the funeral of a friend yesterday.
“Too young, too young-- He was just fifty-one.”
buzzed voices like provoked bees,
a stick thrust into the respectful line,
the hive of sorry; the large crowd.
“At what age will I go?”
Hopefully, only a few will attend mine,
many years from now.
A plain room with steel chairs,
a foggy light, a few drooping flowers,
a guest book with a few scrawled names,
a lone fly buzzing the dim.
Because I had lived so long,
most friends had passed,
hardly anyone there.
A woman conducted.
I could see the sad masks
of my aging children.
A strange pleasure rose in me.
I felt grateful to be so alone.
The Not Lying Down
A ravenous, drunken lion who threw everything
against those three sheets of the wind
that never stops blowing
coupled with a lamb gentler than the one
nursing March into April.
the cars coupling in the freight yard,
clanging metal on metal
bound lamb bleat sacrifice
tethered to a stake
Their offspring, three brothers in a restaurant
strain to hear each others’ disintegrating voices.
Talk of fishing in retirement waters,
and fish, like their children, that got away,
like the God of their youth.
Stalking their table, they do not talk of the lion
who quit lying with the lamb.
No One Looks at Old Men
I sit in my coffee shop,
day after day,
moving the spoon to catch the white streak
the overhead light swirls in my cup.
Sit and watch
Maybe I could change that?
Light up the gray faces
on the counter stools.
Next Monday I will wear shoes that don't match,
maybe a tennie and a boot.
Tuesday, a pink polka dot tie,
with my Purple Heart pinned on, outside my coat.
A large, orange comb in my left over hair, Wednesday.
Thursday, the rainbow bandanna
my only daughter gifted me long ago.
On the first day of the weekend,
my teeth in a glass on the table.
But that would not be nice to the young waitress
who wears the watermelon uniform.
She doesn't look at me
when she always smiles,
but she is very careful with my cup,
filling even when it is almost full.
Then, Saturday, my old, rusted service revolver.
Just set it in on the table
in full view.
Would the cook notice
as he does when I sit too long?
I don't come here on Sundays
because it's closed.
Thomas Carlyle's Maid: On Accidentally Burning His French Revolution Manuscript
Carlyle’s maid at her first job
far from the rutty hut of childhood.
“Mum, I’m peacock proud.”
Mum’s eyes flashed the color of new coins.
“Do your best is all.”
In a room bigger than her whole life
this maid, anxious to please,
stared into the roaring fire.
Dreaming through every article in the room:
the gilded clock,
a portrait of the brocaded matriarch,
old painted vases with new flowers,
fancy teapots of every design,
a wall of books, beautiful
dark arms circling the room.
“I cannot have, but I can touch,
touch and clean and straighten and re-set
and move and move back
and preen these pretty things.
O, a mess of papers.
That cannot be!
Into the fire with thee.”
“Dear Thomas, I never knew you.
You wrote about a revolution of the poor.
Then sacked your maid.
At least you did not
chop off her head!”