November Highway

29 Jun

Over radio waves, on a glare November day, a wide sky
transmits Bob Dylan’s boot leg release number eight. 
The buzz of amplifiers rises in the places where he breathes.

He says, Once I had a pretty girl, but she did me wrong. 
Now I’m marching to the city and the road ain’t long. 

I’m driving alone, so I join the sacred melody and the sky
stoops down—to better hear the singer, I tell myself—
as if the buzzing and the breathing are its favorite song.

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The Lustering Of Love

29 Jun

Her lips, the wine of garden evenings.
His hands, the bread of their communion.
The conversations of their skin lingering
Unhindered by rejection.  In their fields
Pomegranates, dates, and figs flourished.
Ripe fruit bent branches low for them.

By guile, then, eyes were opened, fields taken;
And they sewed fig leaves, bodies curtained,
Alien.  Yet, they would begin again
To anticipate lilac drifting on the breeze,
To look for all the ways a rose can please.
As one, they would await shame’s retreat.

So arise my beautiful one.  Winter is past,
The rain is gone.  Go early to the fields
With me to see if vines have ripened,
If flowers have opened.  The gardens
Are protected, the figs do well, the harvest
Will be full, the vineyards are in blossom.

Only Dog

24 Jun

As kids, we would put our hands inside
her toothy den; for us the molars were mild,
the incisors unwilling even to gentle dent
the soft butter of our skin.
She chewed a couple of neighborhood pets
and Dad had to put her on a run
until we moved outside of town.
There, with our Shepherd’s perked ears
and pointed nose always close by
my brother and I could explore fields
of curious cows, or trod a tangled wood. 
She would bark for joy in the driveway
when visitors arrived who sometimes
waited in their cars until we settled her.

In her waning days, Dad helped her
to get up steps, lifting her from behind. 
The day came he said, She’s in a lot of pain,
and lifted her into the bed of the pickup. 
We drove to town at dusk and dark
had fallen when the vet came out to us.
As if it had all been a dream,
she was gone
and we had started back toward home.       
        From beside him
there on the bench seat of the truck
I glanced up. Dad focused on the road
and cried.  We never had another dog. 
Dad’s words: It’s too hard.

Timber by Caleb Eells

1 Jun

It was the first day of Spring break, a Saturday.  My brother, my sister, and I were outside doing spring cleaning.  We went inside, tired, and grumpy. We were hungry and wanted lunch.  But when we went inside, we found something quite unexpected. My mom was sitting on the kitchen floor, and was crying hard.  The vacuum we had heard minutes before, wailing like a siren, now sat silently next to her looking mournful. That’s when my dad came in the room with the phone in his hand, and told us Grandpa (on my Dad’s side) had been in an accident, and had died.  I learned later that Grandpa had been out logging (cutting down trees) at another person’s house.  He had been cutting a tree that had entangled itself with another tree, so when the tree he was cutting fell, the top of the other tree came with it, and had hit him in his right temple, just below his helmet.  The person he had been working with said that the blow knocked him down, and then he curled up and didn’t move.  My Dad believes he had died right then. Gone.  In the blink of an eye.

My Grandma, Aunt, Uncle, and Cousins live in Vermont.  My Grandpa used to live there too.  Now he lives in heaven.  And, yes, I’m positive that my Grandpa is in heaven right now.  So anyway, the same day we got the phone call, we hurried to get to the airport and we flew to Vermont, taking one stop to switch planes in Washington D.C.  We arrived in VT around 12:30 and met my Uncle Cam and my cousin, Paul, there.  We drove back to their house without much conversation, and got there at about 1:00.  In the morning, we met their cute German Shepherd puppy, Maya.  Their cat, Daisy, didn’t like the new puppy, and stayed clear of it.  On April 15th, a Tuesday, it snowed about four inches.  My sister and I were happy about the new snow, while our cousins moaned about the fresh snow and how they wanted it to be spring.  My brother couldn’t have cared less about it.  Looking back, I too wish it hadn’t snowed considering the circumstances.  I think Grandma just needed it to be Spring.

The day after the snow, we had the calling hours (a time when people come and give their condolences to the relatives of the deceased person and to see the deceased person in the casket).  When we saw his body in the casket, my Aunt cried a lot.  The lump in my throat , which was as big as a watermelon, didn’t go down till I left the room.  The calling hours lasted about seven hours, but I left with my sister and younger cousin after about three hours.  A kind lady volunteered to take us home.  I noticed that people get a lot nicer when one of your family members die.  I guess it is just courtesy.  Or maybe it’s sympathy. Or maybe even empathy.

The memorial service was the next day, and the weather was sunny.  My Uncle, my Dad, my Mom, and my Aunt all went up and talked.  My Uncle did a wonderful speech, and my Dad read some poems.  One he had written, and one Grandpa had written.  My Aunt and my Mom read some poem-like-writings.  We sang some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, and two different pastors got up and talked.  The memorial service was really marvelous.

We finally left on April 20th,  Easter Sunday.  The flights went well, and we arrived home in time for dinner.  My Dad went up there again last week for the burial because the ground had been too muddy in April.  I’m glad my dad was able to go up again.  He was able to help with the work at Grandma’s house, and he was also there to comfort her. We will be going up to VT again in the Summer.  I will not be seeing my Grandpa ever again in VT, or even on Earth.  But I will see him later, in heaven.

by Caleb, age 12

Beautiful girl

26 Jan

you draw my eyes and I anticipate.
Like on a starlit night, my gaze
rises to your skies and remains.

When I stay too late in town,
full of cares, I remember you.
Street light and cityscape are fair,

but your light is higher, and yours
a darker country.  So take me
where flame will be folded into fire. 

Let us lie close.  Let us make
a space for stars at the window;
they are drawn by our embrace.

Hydrant

18 Jan

He’s stuck—a burdock in the sock of his apartment
on the third floor—so he shuffles
to the kitchen window, watches a backhoe
fold knolls of asphalt and earth.

Men and trucks are lined up at the curb
with pipes to fix a break. A rush of lake
consuming glory pours from the corner
hydrant darkening the summer street.

There! and there! glad kids appear
to splash their skin and hair and stamp
their feet. He makes space to recall the days
he filled his run home lungs with air

then drops his gaze to the pink pill organizer
and inhaler sitting by a glass of water. He thinks,
those men down there are working hard
and reaches for the dishes in the kitchen sink.

Song Of The Sanitation Worker

6 Jan

We, the yellow vested men,
Hold the bar and toe the rail of the county truck
As it jerks, bucks, and grunts its girth
Through city block and subdivision.
We leap down, run-trot, retrieve the bins,
And attend the marriage of a wheeled plastic container
To a greased hydraulic mechanism. 

Laying on gloved hands, we open lids, face odors,
Yank levers—bending, lifting, even reaching in
For the sake of the human garbage mission. 
Ours is the trash romp, the crud collection;
Ours the pride and pomp of rubbish. 
We are the shakers and dumpers.
We are the gristle on the bones of sanitation.

Hidden

5 Jan

Ready or not, the seeker says.
    There’s only so many holes to go down
in this house, but they run to them again
when the count begins.

Who crawls from the laundry heap
or out beneath the bed is musty, dust
and silliness, contented to be found,
or else lodging complaint
if the count was too quick.

They pull my hand, demand, Count loud!
You’re it!  Oak floors bounce and shake,
then all sounds whisper into secrets. 

I raise my voice to reckon time
before ready or not and here I come.
I go slow, but you’d never guess
the way they’ve flown, like ghosts,
behind doors and into backs of closets.

Then I search the rooms of our home;
I seek their faces,
and the light that would be
found in darkened places.

Teller

28 Dec

In books he read aloud, my father uttered charms.
Brave Sneelock, the Heffalump, farmers Boggis, Bean, and Bunce,
the characters by whom he cast a spell.
As a boy, listening, I never guessed an author
and barely parsed the teller from the tale;
all the earth and sky was in the telling—and didn’t fail.

Who told me stories first my heart is welded to
with sentences, is anchored to, as truth is to a word.
His voice turned all to flint and fire,
or else so leaf and green as to be giddy.

Mom says he still reads to her—I can see him in his chair:
lamplight on furrowed brow and legs crossed.
The sun is low; the sky in rows of ruddy men
is marching down to greet him and he begins.
His gift is words—words full of rooms
in which the wonderment of telling is the end.

Dickinsonbird

9 Aug

…not a creature failed–
No Blossom stayed away…
~Emily Dickinson

Mockingbird, where do you begin
and which are the sources of your spring?
Curious the clouds that fill your well.

Veiled in drab plumes you seem a jest.
No man, by sight alone, could guess
your sung surprise, your unexpected spell.

Curious the clouds and dark the dirt
that nourish and expose your verse—
a crown and trunk rise from buried root.

          I am beguiled and beguiler, but you!
a winged prophet, a truth-teller,
a humble stump bearing lovely fruit.

Capably you quip; you chirp and charm
until by feathered phrase and turn
I lift my head. You offer a reward

to the trespassed and trespasser: a place
where grief and glory have a face
and your dull body pierces like a sword.

Big Deal (For Nathan)

5 Apr

At thirteen, your body is writing mysteries:
fierce storms, blown fuses, dark basements.
To make themselves known, bones lengthen
beneath the pliant soil of your skin.

Tendons and muscles groan extension
to and from—a boy is gaining on manhood,
a burning engine revs and roars,
a locomotive is aiming for its destination.

As successive suns relight your lantern,
welcome them.  Dream, observe, apprehend,
trim the wick of ambition, pour the oil
of expectation—much good awaits you son!

When unsettled by faults and frailties,
or stuttered by the failure of a friend,
when the paper world is crumpling, remember,
the good King has you in his hand;

he is your shelter, find shade in him.  
He built your heart and lungs, he holds
your hope and future—silly spasms,
distractions, even glum reflections

(be they rare or common) are companions,
acknowledge them and carry on.  
Flesh is wanting, faith will be tested,
but you will never be forsaken.

You have departed, have left the station,
are merging with the tracks of men.
Let it come, and attend these days.
Sweet boy, you have begun to be a man.

Supply Yard Etiquette

16 Feb

Behind chain link, a shag dog waits
for the motor groan, the speech of brakes,
the slam-the-truck-door plumber, and the odors:
cheap cigar, pipe cement, fast food leftovers. 

Beer can hands unlock the gate,
deposit breakfast in a pan by salvaged sinks
rusting, roosting angled on their drains.
The dog slobbers, the man spits,

the sinks lean, warily,
away.

If Home

11 Dec

If home is where you go—if, here, you strike accords
between the sometimes angry parties at the table
and are able to heed the bell’s harmonic
when another round begins—you stand on solid ground.

If your pulp fictions hit the trash bin by the gate
before you stump over the back step
and through the door, if home is where
you log the daily lore, your feet are on the floor.

If home is where you laugh, cry, get surprised, listen,
touch, desire someone’s eyes, believe they believe
that you are wise, then you are wise. 
If this is your light and your sanctuary;

if home is where you go to rejoin the fight
after a long day—if your foundations shake
and your pillars quiver at the thought of this,
your beacon, quenched—you are a sage and a seer;

you are a lovely footed messenger in flight.

Love In A Whirlwind

11 Dec

I am memory’s author.
A story’s birth decorates my desk.
By pluck and plot and twist,
you ponder my works.
I write them.

These pages are dim alleys,
snow bright streets,
working hands, homeless feet,
ocean canyons, and a finger
pressed against your skin.

I write a whirlwind,
a burning coal in a child’s hand.
I write your name, your lips,
your chin.  Memory kindles,
a story is born again.

Trail Run

1 Dec

Gray squirrels rustling dry leaves
Skirt runners’ feet on the course;

A tolerant turtle parks and waits. 
But pale blue petals dappling dirt

Lie, and I trample the butterflies.
A crowd of survivor wings rises,

Blinking—the enduring blue
Eyelashes a buttress for my knees.

Meditation On Shadow

20 Jul

Lifted shades—shoulder blades
angled to the window;

Pen jots—mortal thoughts
cast immortal shadows;

Salt shaker, pepper mill
huddled on the table;

I, the paragon of Cain,
extol the offering of Abel.

Morning Reflection

14 Jul

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them… ~John 17: 18

…my yoke is easy…    ~Matthew 11:30

At the kitchen, by the door,
Our heels on morning floor,
We gather and prepare
To cross the threshold.

Our heels on morning floor,
We hesitate or hurry
To cross the threshold—
sent into the world.

We hesitate or hurry;
We sally, stump, or tumble—
sent into the world
to shoulder and forgive.

We sally, stump, or tumble,
Heels bruised and blistered,
To shoulder and forgive,
To receive the yoke of rest.

Heels bruised and blistered,
We gather and prepare
To receive the yoke of rest
At the kitchen, by the door.

Early Miscarriages

22 Feb

Death,
you are the enemy. You took two friends,
and if you can hold them you have seized the wind.
We weep for ones taken, and are as shaken
by bleak absence as by your uninvited presence.

At dinner, we sit around the table with living kin.
We pray. Then, with our eyes open to each others faces,
we linger over life in a womb; with two fingers
we make small guesses—No bigger than this? Yes!

Death, we do not want for grief,
but there is a Wing you may not reach beneath.
There your hand cannot grasp fragile forms
and your grip has ceased to close on even these
tiny
living human beings.

Rising

22 Feb

She rubs mist from her drab face,
yawns as the granite moon descends,

ripples and shivers while embers,
buried by night, are stoked and blown. 

    From ash a yellow lobe will rise,
will hold itself, poised, in her reflection.
 
She joins leaf and limb, heralds again
the return of daylight and birdsong,

flaunts her glints and ruffles, beckons
one who, too long, has been gone. 

August Night

22 Feb

Watched by stars we lay reposed, settled on the sod.
The breeze leans—cinder clouds respond as to a prod.

You ask aloud, is smallness good?  I give a little nod
and look up from our cul-de-sac into the face of God.

A thread of light, bluish white, silently is flown—a stitch
to gather tats and rags, to hem our flesh and bones.

Grains of sand ride the sky, a moment they are shown.
We lay reposed, settled, and longing to be sewn.

Curse

29 Oct

An ocean: reaction, a dingy: satisfaction
with wind and wave upon its wooden side.  

We founder in deceit, we curse our hands and feet,
and sink beneath the swell of Adam’s pride.

Balance

30 Jul

A transaction statement arrives, is buried, finally rises to the top
and is opened, whereupon a five-year-old assails it with a crayon.
You find the time to frown check marks by debits and credits
that match your register; black ink corrals numerical larks.

Then, by calculator, I attempt to interpret this art. If only
I could deconstruct the prank figures, but previous and present
balances are stark, like Picasso’s later work: Don Quixote
mounted on a scribble horse, a depiction more likely to be parsed.

Saturday Coffee

25 Jul

I press the chop-saw through a two-by-four
and Van Gogh glares dust down around him.
Above his clay-brown hair, the rim has a big chip.

His expression says, I never asked for this
as if he guessed that fate would glaze him.
I make another cut: yellow dust settles

on the last of the cold black in my mug.  I pause,
arrested by his sober gaze…then check my mark
and raise the piney dust again.

VanGoghSelfPortrait1889-90OrsayAA web

Departure

23 Jul

She toddles away from the cat, then sits
as if to place herself: a receptacle

for the parting kiss.  I bend lips
to her hair and whisper, I love you,

bye bye.  I believe she sends me
to gather fresh air, to harvest blue sky;

I believe I reign in her like a king,
turn in her like a door on its hinge;

I believe she rises and remembers a tower,
bowed, with breath and prickly beard.

Trampolines In Summer by Nathan Eells

24 Jun

I am bouncing.
Me and my brother,
we are bouncing
kangaroos in Australia,
our big feet pounding,
pounding the ground
as we race across the plain.

I am bouncing.
Me and my brother,
we are bouncing
high into the air.
Astronauts in space
zooming past bright green trees,
suspended high above the ground.
Then we plummet to earth
like rocks dropped off a bridge.

I am bouncing.
Me and my brother
we are bouncing
rubber balls
on a sidewalk.
Down we go—
we hit the pavement
without a sound,
like feet on the trampoline.

O Christ, Our King, Creator, Lord by Gregory The Great

11 Apr

O Christ, our King, Creator, Lord,
Savior of all who trust Thy Word,
To them who seek Thee ever near,
Now to our praises bend Thine ear.

In Thy dear cross a grace is found,
It flows from every streaming wound,
Whose power our inbred sin controls,
Breaks the firm bond, and frees our souls.

Thou didst create the stars of night,
Yet Thou hast veiled in flesh Thy light,
Hast deigned a mortal form to wear,
A mortal’s painful lot to bear.

When Thou didst hang upon the tree,
The quaking earth acknowledged Thee,
When Thou didst there yield up Thy breath
The world grew dark as shades of death.

Now in the Father’s glory high
Great Conqueror, never more to die,
Us by Thy mighty power defend,
And reign through ages without end.

Gregory The Great, d. 604

250px-Gregorythegreat

You Can’t Punch The Clock

9 Apr

You can’t punch the clock—
clicking keys for poetry
throws time to the floor.

Instead, punch the dashboard
for this chance car radio
news alliteration,

sources in Sadr
city say certain sectors
of the city seem. . .

Happenstance hardly
hurries handy helps or hints.
Haiku hesitates.

Friends And Hard Won Enemies

9 Apr

Hard work making enemies.  Slackers steal and cheat
And make much of their apathy, but fail to garner hate.

For surefire antagonists, look at whom you address.
Listen till they’re human, consider them—digest.     

Learn to spar-sing and wrestle-dance.  Go bury your good deeds
And mock your own success.  Gather the pieces for a bridge.  

Don’t quit!  Betrayers can’t resist.  Those who would despise you
or dismiss will set their face against you like a fist.  

But making friends is a cinch!  Find someone who shares your fits,
Together, take aim…steady…Bang!  Fast you will remain.

Of course, that friend may be honey that turns bitter in the belly.  
A true friend will always be your potential hard won enemy.

Top 10 Poetry Finalist In Asheville’s Mountain Xpress Poetry Show

31 Mar

Mountain_Xpress_Poetry_Prize_Finalists_Announced

The Poem, Sleep And Dreams

Art Is Always Transgressive

10 Mar

"Art is always transgressive.  What I always say is, we need to transgress in love.  We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home."                                                                                                

—Makoto Fujimura, abstract contemporary artist and illuminator of The Four Holy Gospels, a manuscript published by Crossway Publishing in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of The King James Version Bible in 1611.

Listen to Tim Keller’s intro to The Four Holy Gospels.

Visit Makoto Fujimura’s website.