Sometimes They

Sometimes they spill off my pen,
Vivid images color blank pages.
Sometimes they come tangled with
cliches, meanings hidden in
Triteness demand discipline.
Sometimes they don't show at all,
Shy or stubborn, they have to be
Coerced, bribed, threatened, cajoled.

Where do they come from?
Who do they belong to?
Sureal images scream color,
Words run at me,
Fly past my head in a blur,
Catch at my mind,
Force their way through me.

Almost Succeeding

Suddenly I remember the man I married.
I’ve been so busy remembering 
the man I buried,
I almost forgot.

At first I tried hard to forget,
almost succeeding. 

Now I try hard to remember,
almost succeeding.

I look very hard
out of the edges
of my eyes for 
someone watching me,
but I don’t see
your eyes. 

I don’t want anyone 
watching me
leaning against a wall
slightly drunk, grinning
with Siamese recognition

Unless he has
your eyes. 

Shrapnel

Pieces of the past
fly up, brittle
shrapnel wounding
from mines long buried

You, walking across the lot
from the barn to the house, 
unmindful of my watching
premonition.  The picture of you

Standing next to the log 
church on the dirt road
in Eastern Oklahoma, 
the hills behind you

Colored bright with
heedless blood of fall.
Your smile remembered
explodes again

 

The Red Heifer

The creek is flooding
this morning. Its pewter surface 
wide and turbulent.

Dark branches flash by,
tangling in a deadfall
where a great sycamore
tore loose last spring.
Further down
swift water unrolls a 
smooth ribbon of bright grey.
One red heifer stands
on the far bank, moving her head

from side to side,
confused at the interruption 
in her path to the barn.
When the creek goes down 
she’ll find her way to
the salt lick in the shed,
but you’ll still be dying,
and I’ll still have to know

1979

Wide crimson brush stroke
Insane red calligraphy
On white hospital wall
Screaming at my eyes
Catching unaware
Gushing, spouting bright and red
Drowning mind, inundating thought
Holding me frozen
Scream caught
Echoing blood
Ringing madness over and over

Where did you go
Suddenly so still—so still

I cry promises
Instead of tears

Not to you
But to me

Mr. Flannery's Chicks

Yesterday in science, Mr. Flannery’s chicks hatched,
my son said. The principal came in to see
and opened one too soon. The chick cracked
a beginning hole in its shell, and he tried to help.
Too small and too wet, the chick died.

Yesterday you called with your troubles, and 
I tried to help. You scratched a tiny beginning 
in your problem, and I gave you my best
advice, told you what to do.
Too small, too wet, your solution died.

October

Scorn not October, you lovers of green.
Scarlet and orange are a celebration
That’s not so much of end but rest hard won
Leaves, drifting promise of snow through air keen
With touch of frost and woodsmoke, gently wean
Us from summer’s rank and verdant passion,
Bright signals of ageless changing fashion.
And yet, the sadness comes, not unforeseen.
We walk autumn’s path, our feet reluctant.
We’re loath to don the coats and hats that tell
Of end to carefree day and bright hot night.
Gone the raucous birdsongs once so constant.

In their place north winds begin their knell,
Coldly mocking earth’s promise to requite.