Everything on the tongue goes stunned bird.
Long past the hissy-fit thralls of April,
rashes of phlox, purple thistle snowing a little.
And then, like too much love,
there was altogether too much gardenia
in the huddled yards. The heat in a flick of wind
picked itself up and dragged off,
old dog, into the damp cane fields, bee drone,
sighing, sighing of highway, hawks’ cries.
A screen door slammed lightly.
A woman hummed nonsense to herself.
The thousand burnt-orange camellias
bent in rot, long past wisteria,
long past bitter kumquat, past the sweet white ache
of mock orange—it was not God,
but those lithe lord gods themselves,
mocking birds, intoning every other voiced thing
form dirt-slicked limbs of magnolias, until, distracted,
they tipped past the waxed leaves the sun makes silver of;
not God, lord gods; not love, insistence, disregard.
first appeared in Five Points
The landscape prayed its litany
of dusk, grieved us, did not need us.
Daylight grew fat, grew slack with fatigue;
the pond scum thickened.
If you listened, the limestone sunk beneath
your tired feet told you
you were water before you were flesh,
and wind before that.
Your bones may leave a fine shape, like old fish,
like curved shells; we happen
the way light happens;
after the thunderstorms ride the sky,
day’s skin darkens. Beneath it, a hawk
quiets. Pink lizards skirt the window light
and the Luna Moth bangs like an amnesiac angel
against the screen. Later sleep will weave
the wet through our ribs; we will grow wide,
slatted, unmoored, born by the tide-heave of dreaming,
o body, old boat of time and breath, no less, no less.
–First appeared in 32 poems and then in the anthology Old Flame
From Ten Cures: Found Poems
Cure #1: If You Live in Georgia and God Speaks Directly to You
for Howard Finster
Listen. Give up your day job:
lay your lawnmower repair tools gently in the cement.
With a stick, scratch the date God said, Be an artist.
Paint as many angels as time allows on all the junk
from all the junkyards in town. Bring home broken down lamps,
smashed-up cars. Stack them. Name your backyard ‘Eden.’
And when your bones begin to ache, and when the end
starts its slow saunter towards you
hew your own white coffin. Tell your long-bewildered wife
the palette and brushes are hers, as are any remaining heavens.
Cure #2: Unrequited Love
Find an egg a hen laid and left.
Cradle it in your palm. Write his name
over the entire shell. Do not let the shell break.
Find a body of water. It must run.
No lakes. No ponds. Stand facing away.
Toss that well-inked egg over your shoulder.
Listen for the way it breaks
the skin of the water,
the current eating it whole.
You know how this story goes:
do not forget, do not look back.
Walk straight home.
Talk to no one. After that, be sensible.
Cure #3: Boredom
Put one penny under your tongue.
The whole day, hum
I am a rich man who will outlive
my worry. Watch out what you wish for.
At dusk, when the penny
has made your mouth taste of rust
and blood, when the wind has stilled,
walk to the nearest train track.
Place the penny on the rail. Wait.
The earth will shake:
a train will come and flatten it.
Carry it, useless coinage, to your grave.
Cure #4: Buzzards
If the roof of your home by sad chance is chosen by buzzards
as a roost, cancel paper delivery immediately—
they will only beat you to it, eat the news.
Install a sprinkler system on your roof.
Then string wires all across it.
More than likely they simply will feast
on the neighbors’ papers, will strut among your rooftop wires
and pluck them. The twang will keep you from your sleep.
Buzzards adjust better than the rest of us.
They will preen in the rooftop rains.
Your ceiling will begin to leak.
Forget the buckets. Give it at most one week. Move.
Country Love Songs