We Reduced our Mascot to Nothing

and studies proved he was still recognizable.
Parallelograms of any shape or color
provoked recognition of our brand.

We found out later it was caused by smell.
The aroma of our particular plastics plant
fastened as it was to every cup or wrapper,
every test print we produced.

But at the time we posited
that it was the parallel lines,
the suggestion of railroad tracks
stretching to sex or infinity
to what we used to call god.

Forming the LLC

The cardboard binder and box from LegalZoom
rode in the back seat of her Camry for two years.
The deluxe set, with a company seal,
50 certificates of membership,
and an SS-4 form which we e-filed but never signed.
We were going to be different.

Earnings from an unwanted farmhouse
from an unloved aunt plagued us.
Not the casual sloth of adding a room
or buying a new car for us.
We were going to be different.

Continue reading “Forming the LLC”


for M.B.

A handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me
and wasn’t particularly wrenching
or well-enjambed

still startled me
because the handwriting,
the blue lines and charcoal grey
reminded me of days in school
when you would write to me
thinking about me instead of
world geography.

Continue reading “Handwritten”

Morphine Dreams

in my dreams I was always walking somewhere
half-aware even in my dreams
I wasn’t walking anywhere
not for the time
being I’d had an accident in one
I stood behind a man speaking
on a podium he was leaning back
against me a heavy
weight a marching band advancing
everyone on their feet a
strange rhythm made musical
by repetition
muffled drums and low brass.

I half-woke hearing the solenoids of
some hospital bedside machine
clacking the music I’d heard.

My Uncle Was a Policeman

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
from Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

In the faded Polaroid colors of the early 1970s
he sat quietly eating at the Thanksgiving table.
The guests hadn’t arrived.

My aunt called from the kitchen,
sounding concerned, because he wasn’t –
asking for the third time if he wanted coffee.
“It’ll just keep me awake,” he said.
“I’ll see everyone tomorrow morning.”

There is no dramatic turning to this story,
no subsequent events to make it tragic,
and I doubt anyone else remembers.

Dull Sermon

He bleats a grey cardboard version of the word of God.
He makes me wish I believed in the kind of Spirit
which strikes men and women with prophecy
or else shuts their mouths to wait for a true saying.

Not the god of committee meetings, an ice-milk
calling no one else heard; a gentleman’s C
In Communications at a community Bible college.

He should have been a farmer.
Maybe then he would have understood
dry days and lightning on the plain,
What it is to work, curse and be cursed,
wrestle with God until your hip pops. He
should read Reynolds Price. He
should weep because he doesn’t understand,
not crow three points about how I don’t.


Sometimes, as with Isak Dinesen,
Raymond Chandler, LBJ, or other famous people,
a casual picture becomes their life-mask –
shown on any book cover, documentary,
or magazine article, their logos.

They may
have been returning from a restaurant
or sitting, waiting for some entertainment
to start when someone produced
the massive picture-taking equipment.
They gamely smiled, or didn’t –
just another day in their typical age.
What if they had known this shot
would become what they were known as,
that others would not recognize them
ten minutes before or hence?

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