May 15, 2010

Half a block down from the cemetery
in the little Ozark town of Mountain View
stands Tommy's Famous Pizza and Barbecue,
its name proclaimed in neon night and day.
Opened in 1991, will it live as long as those headstones?
Maybe so. Already the names on some are gone,
gone the dates, the prayers, the poems carved there
by loved ones who washed those stones with their tears.
But now the wind and rain and years on the Ozark Mountains
have smoothed the stones and no words remain
on the older ones, leaning this way and that
as my wife and I walked among them.
The newer ones standing tall and straight
in their freshly polished impudence we disdained,
but the years will claim them, too, the wind, the rain.

On the far side, beneath the hard-maple trees
the stones were lost in night shadows.
A tiny one, the size of this legal pad,
we'd had to bend and read with our fingertips:
          Georgina Birdsong
      b. June 14, 1909 d. May 15, 1910
          In Our Hearts Forever
At Tommy's, later, we had a damn good pie
sitting at the picnic table outside,
the May evening mild, a starry sky,
and Tommy's name in neon glowing against the dark
so that when I closed my eyes it glowed, briefly, still.



How Did I End Up Here

taking care of seven little men with strange names
who work in the coal mines then drag dusty, dirty
boots across my spotless floors expecting me
to wash their filthy laundry and cook them dinner?

And if this isn't enough, there's that old hag
who keeps wanting to give me apples.
"My pretty one," she calls me,
"taste my lovely apples today."

So, one day I took them all and baked
a pie for the hungry little freaks
and they all dropped dead. Now
I'm on trial for multiple homicides

and I can tell the jury doesn't believe
the ugly hag story. I am numb, in a trance,
going through this nightmare when
my prince of a public defender waltzes

in with the wicked wench who confesses
she just wanted to kill me! I hug my attorney,
and he kisses my snow-white cheek
then my ruby red lips. I pat my

ebony hair, fix my bow and smile
for the journalists and their cameras,
but I know I will only sell my story
to those two cute reporters named Grimm.




The UPS truck is slowing down,
maybe it's stopping at my house,
not that I'm expecting anything
but the unexpected and I go way back.
Driver's so close, I can see his face,
good, clean lines, okay so maybe a little stubble
around the chin but for a minor angel,
not bad at all, and though the big brown
truck is slowly crawling forward he's looking
at his clipboard and at this very moment
I'd rather have my name on a clipboard
than in the contents of the most prestigious
poetry magazine on the planet.
Besides, if I had my way, everything
would come UPS... the guilt edged acceptance,
the paycheck, why not that great vacation,
the perfect meal, the pluperfect lover,
The world, at best, is arbitrary.
These vehicles have it in them
to formalize the hopes, the dreams,
the vindications, the splendor.
But that damn truck rolls right by my house
and crawls to a stop next door.
It's package for number 70 once again.
The process is in place.
I'm just in the wrong life.



Under Cover
   the lake holds on to her dead— Michigan folklore

jade rind of water
not opaque enough
to keep the eye from thinking
it caught
grey-yellow locks
drifting under ice like bladder weed

how can i help imagining
    having had a change
    of mind of heart
is knocking
from the lake innards



Dindi Garland

At work Dindi daydreams about
Judy Garland, pill addicted
by fifteen. If she could belt

like Judy, she thinks she could be
happy. She performs in bars,
hardly the Palladium-applause,

the last drips from a leaky spigot.
Dindi never takes drugs. Even
aspirins make her nervous-

but if music were a drug, she'd
be stoned all the time.
When she brings a customer
lemon meringue pie,
she pictures herself on stage,
a sweet time slice to devour.

Her boss Freida says she's
easily distracted. She's right.

It's like her mind is a vase,
falling in mid-air,
never hitting the floor.

Jerseyworks home