Consolation

I don’t know
in the world’s great house
we were raised in
different rooms
maybe
and passed on stairways
you along the wall
me already more than half way
over the railing

Was it then
we began
sending each other pictures?

I was wearing
the shirt you made me
The way the sun was
you couldn’t see my eyes
or so you say
I remember
the far edge of the garden
when you turned toward me
There
above your outstretched arm
the Jacaranda
lifting its
pale architecture

Oregon
you say now
you’d go that far
For the children
And tell me I can have
what’s left of the beerglasses
these four tin plates
equitable distribution
according to the laws
of California

You slam the trunk lid twice
calling me poet
po-et
like that again
but delicately
assure me
God will bless all those
who sail in me
before you drive away

Teddy Bears’ Picnic

If you go down in the woods today, you better not go alone.
It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home….

Courtesy of Furrious Leader (a Wookie amongst the Ewoks, as he never tires of reminding us):

What You Don’t See May Nevertheless Be What You Get

What You See Is What You Get

21st Century Public Policy Priorities

1. Look out for your family, friends, and people who’ve got something on you.

2. Starve, bomb, incarcerate, belittle, or humiliate everybody else.

3. Elevate assholes.

4. Listen attentively to morons.

5. Support the troops.

I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled

On Outliving the Language I Was Taught

Toe the line/Tow the line: We don’t have draft centers any more, where hundreds of young men at a time were once directed to stand with their toes against a line painted on the floor, then step forward in unison and take the administered oath. Your soul may belong to Jesus, son, but your ass belongs to the Army.

Jibes with/Jives with: I guess there aren’t as many sailors in the world as there used to be.

Set foot in/Step foot in: To step is/was an intransitive verb, except maybe for the military’s Step it up back there! (As in step up the pace, which, come to think of it, may be a different verb altogether — something like to upstep, a remnant of those pesky Germanic separable-prefix verbs which seem to be so deeply embedded in modern colloquial English: fuck up, fuck over, fuck off, fuck with, etc.)

How fun!: Fun used to be a noun. (O, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.) Sleigh is still a noun, but only Santa ever rides in one these days. (Vermonters, Canadians, Russians, work with me here.)

The Arrangements

First
dust in the air
a dog
yelping
and circling its tail
behind the fence

A small house
behind a chain-link fence
a dog snapping at itself
and then the dust
along the ground
rising

Past a torn screen door
half-open
a woman in a sun hat
and braces on both legs
over worn coveralls
coughing
and working herself
crabwise
down the steps
to the yard

A woman in braces
with a hoe
pivoting
and levering up weeds
Or is it the grass
she’s ripping at
blade by blade
in clumps

In a sun hat
in the dust
I am
there to see it

Me
laid out on the steps opposite
full of things
I did last night and liked
only half watching
her hoe across the street
arcing
her braces
locking and unlocking
and the dust

Why tear up all that grass
for Christ’s sake?
Why with a hoe?
It’ll take months
Someone ought to
let her know
about the dog

“It looks
good like that”
I say
“the grass
it’s beautiful”

“Too much trouble”
she says
“beautiful or not
I’m sixty-two years old
and crippled
I don’t have the time”

And never did
I guess
which is why
forty years ago
she gave it up
because there’s no strength
or thrift in it
beauty
nothing we can
decently use

It lights up the eye
and leaves the hands idle
which is sin
It attracts men
and sent one away again
whistling
with his hands in his pockets
the right or wrong of it
small enough comfort then

She tried it again
in the mirror
and
when her eyes cleared
she looked at her hands
opening
and let it go

I see it now
watching the hoe
waving away the dust
“Hard case”
I think
“hard case”
with last night gone
this morning too
almost
I have things to do
and my ears ringing
What to make of Della?

Dust
at least
that’s what I can
tell people
about the dust

And when the dust settles
thirty by forty feet of
scalped grass
a snaked length of
dog chain
crossing it
between fence and house
and the trees

I like the trees
One in particular
always
green at dawn
and still
if only for
a moment

And after that moment
one morning
in the parted branches
of the same tree
Della
crippled
lopsided
goddess of
protestant horticulture
Della
waving her discount pruning saw
and
looking for the serpent

“Sweet Jesus
Della
get down
You want to
kill yourself
or what?”

“Will you look at these loquats
I can’t even
give them away
I’ve got a kitchen
full
and the ground
still covered with them
I can’t be
picking up loquats
all summer

Not now
not with Jim
the way he is
I want it down”

She runs a hand
over the saw teeth
I pull a leaf
tear it
into two halves
along the vein

She tells me
he’s dying
about the house
they just bought
bad plumbing
bad wiring
and him inside it
choking on
sawdust and
cancer trying
to fix things

“For me”
she says
“No matter what happens
he wants me to
go on living here
And I want the yard cleared
I want
something I can
keep up
No telling how I’d
pay anyone enough to
do all this gardening”

I know
I know

I tell her I know
and go on
sweating and
working the saw all morning
pulling at
amputated branches

It seems
we’ve made a pact
about this tree
the delicate fruit
seed
most of it
but sweet
the bark like grey silk
wood white
unexpectedly white
where the blade
opens it to view

I’ll help her
send it on
ahead of him
agree
that love
is her excuse

She’ll offer me
a bowl of loquats
when I leave
go in to him
believing
I’ve accepted

The Evolution of Noblesse Oblige

Andrew Carnegie:

We’ll buy a lot of books, and build a lot of places where working people can go and read them. This will help them better themselves, and in the process provide a more civilized future for all of us.

Bill Gates:

The country is not producing enough of the kind of people we’ll need for the future we’re creating. Beneficial change will require us to seize control of the school curriculum from clueless education experts and teacher’s union officials — an annoying, but essentially trivial task. First, we’ll buy their compliance. Then, if necessary, we’ll buy their gratitude.

Can it really be this simple? Probably not. Still, if you have kids, this might be a good time to take more seriously your own contribution to the world they’re going to be living in.

Presidential Appointees (In No Particular Order)

Jeff Sessions: Looks like Alfred E. Neuman, thinks like John C. Calhoun.

Steve Bannon: What stupid people think a smart person ought to sound like.

Betsy DeVos: A government-run education system will never be able to produce the amount of ignorance this country needs.

Jared Kushner: Once you grab the right one, hang on.

Mike Pence: The Taliban had some good ideas.

Michael Flynn: Die Politik ist eine bloße Fortsetzung des Krieges mit anderen Mitteln.

Andrew Puzder: You do want fries with that.

Rex Tillerson: Extreme unction.

Reince Priebus: Not being careful what you wish for has consequences.

Neil Gorsuch: There are only two crimes — existence, which is a misdemeanor, and presence, which is a felony.

Tom Price: Don’t get sick. If you do, die quickly.

Scott Pruitt: The cabin doesn’t leak when it doesn’t rain.

Ben Carson: You have too many neurons. I can help you with that.

Sorry, Tim

The future is not apps, the future is functionality. The sooner you guys get done fighting over the money, the sooner Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc., can be addressed as fully rational creatures, and we guinea pigs consumers can get on with sorting out the blessings and curses of this new symbiosis you’ve been threatening us with promising us.