Chicory

chicory

Chicory

 

My boy falls asleep by my side each night
cats sometimes fight in the alley even in rain

walking in the hallway past the open door
one daughter sleeps suspended by pillows

the other flings everything aside and sprawls
face down and then I’m here room as wide

as a hundred year old house and your guitar
sits waiting for you and I sit waiting

I finally hear the crickets they’re late this summer
when a poem begins to emerge it begins

like stink bugs and hard backed bugs
charging the window screen like rhinos

then when all that fails like moths alighting
holding their ground like kites in instant photos

and when that fails I finish my tea and listen
the crickets I hear are from a midnight walk

in Ithaca on Coddington Road 28 years ago
in the dark of no streetlights and miles of field

when my soul first disappeared into a million
songs with no refrain and when that all fails

I go out and look at the gangly weed of a plant
in the front yard I spared from the weeder for

No good reason one afternoon the next morning
it was full of modest flowers the color of late May

skies closing up at noon like it was the old school
diner of the plant world since then I have noticed

it everywhere on the highway’s side every morning
the short lived beauty newly bloomed each day

and I think I’ll write about that but cannot find
a poetic way to describe a plant made entirely

of old ladies’ elbows and eye wrinkles that turns
into a goddess in the cool morning air so

I sit waiting along with your guitar it is not a question
you will come up and carefully take it

from its case and hold it and find the chord
that brings me back to this

Spirit

Spirit

 

I don’t believe in spirits but I believed in the spirit
of my first unborn daughter because I saw her

framed by the blue gray screen, a face with expression
and a body with movement. What else constitutes

a spirit if not those? My wife’s great aunt Julia
pulled onto route 17 in Murrell’s Inlet and into

the path of a white pickup truck; she was flown
to Charleston not by angels but by helicopter

and when we saw her she was still alive
but I knew whatever was Aunt Julia was not there

and I resented when a hospital chaplain came in
to pray with us over her. Couldn’t he see that

her spirit had already fled or been knocked out of her
by four tons of steel? Spirit as more than consciousness

or less, as essence, a vector of character even before
experience presses its thumbs into your clay, a vector

which I recognized by its absence in Aunt Julia
having seen it preside so often over a cup of tea. But of my daughter’s

spirit I cannot claim the same familiarity. And how
did I feel it was with us that painful night

flashing in the air around our grief
as panicked as we were, the three of us sure

there was some solution, a way to get back
to the world just before that evening?

*

I don’t get visits from spirits that often. Aunt Julia
has never come back to have tea or hoot her

wise southern laugh with me in a kitchen of my dreams.
I’ve not once seen the face of my unborn daughter and

on occasion I think if she had not left us that night
the three who came after her would never have

existed. And who then might have? Because I don’t believe
in spirits I have even discounted visits from the only

two to keep up with me, my first pet Tuna Cat
who suffered much before his death and my poetry teacher

Archie;  they last came to see me together. Archie had a new place
just under the earth and though the floor was all dirt

it had a kitchen and everything. And Tuna, sitting
on the counter. “I like it here, Jeff,” Archie said to me,

and I think, I think he meant it.

Driving Down the Mountain After Dusk

Driving Down the Mountain After Dusk

 

Dusk is finally gone but it has left a mark on the dark green slopes
like pencil has been rubbed over everything

You know there are trees there pines and oaks maples others
but now all you can verify is that it’s a hill with the disposition

of trees or a tendency towards treeness but it’s too dark
to prove the trees are there and we’re moving too fast

following a line we can’t see the end of but which we know
ends before daylight

Urushiol

Urushiol

It starts outside you, a brush of an arm
or accidental glance indifferent even

and then there is no helping for it
scratching the itch they say spreads it

makes it worse but it really travels
only where it’s made original contact

occasionally it’s delayed getting under your
skin waiting on and responding to your own

chemistry and the building up
of a defensive response is what inflames

things so where did it first
touch you  it will stay there a while like all

things it will run its course it doesn’t
matter what you do once you’ve got it

Goat Goes West

A few images from West of Here, where some of the poetry offered up on this site has found its way recently into the hands of kind caretakers. Admittedly it is kind of thrilling to know this work travels far better than its author…

GOAT at Coco et Olive, Main and 21st St, Vancouver BC (photo courtesy MB)

GOAT at Coco et Olive, Main and 21st St, Vancouver BC (photo courtesy MB)

GOAT at Rocky Mountain Flatbread, W 1st Ave, Vancouver BC (photo courtesy of MB)

GOAT at Rocky Mountain Flatbread, W 1st Ave, Vancouver BC (photo courtesy of MB)

 

Goat has never been on a Vancouver cafe run before (at least as far as I know). So thanks, MB, for expanding my horizons! And many thanks to all of you who’ve taken one poem or another for a ride in your mind or your car, wherever you are.

 

 

 

 

 

Nobscusset Burial Ground, Dennis MA

Nobscusset Burial Ground, Dennis MA

 

The path off the two-lane road is as quiet and straight as an unread sentence.
There are no accidental visits to this ground. You have to ask around

at the lakeside potter for directions, itself a place you have to ask
around to find, and even then you miss the entrance because it’s

nothing more than a shadow between high shrubs and a fence,
and you have to get out of your car and cross the street

to find it, grassy area surrounded by trees and houses yet secluded
just up a rise from the edge of Scargo Lake, whose waves are the soft

clap of a hand on a familiar shoulder. There are no markers of any kind
but everywhere offerings—nickels, beads, feathers woven into star shape,

a wreath of sticks hung atop one of the granite border stones, things made
by hands left at the foot of a tree or placed on a branch, and underneath

the skin of the earth the force of something still vibrating at blood
frequency. Almost four centuries since their sachem, their sagamore,

Mashatampaine, walked over this ground when everyone knew
death was larger than life but here you feel it, there are more

signs of it than there are letters in the spelling of his name, he’s
in the pulse of the pottery made on the other side of the small lake,

the vibration that shivers the calm water just before sunset viewed
from Scargo Tower, the twitch of the fox through the scrub oak

under the cover of dusk and wild blueberry. For a person used
to tombstones and crypts there is something naked here in the pine

needles and piles of coins and cigarettes and offerings. It’s the living
speaking to the living, and the dead are listening, they listen.

ScargoSunset