A World Lost

A wagon wheel light

(a move prop abandoned
in the town with a Biblical name)

Tossed dim light onto burlap curtains

(salvaged from the basement
of Holy Family Church)

Competed with votive candles

(reflected off plastic tablecloths
as white as sacraments)

Lit two front-row priests

(and heard “Born to be Wild”
played on a mandolin.)

Nazareth, Texas

Assisted Living

No one should have to live in
places like this:
warehousing the elderly
is all it is
and anyway
other societies
their elders.
Not like here.

But you just don’t know
until it is your decision
to make

And you realize
there aren’t any
right answers
so the best can you can hope for
is the least-wrong

Which leads you to following along
at a barely-perceptible pace
behind an elderly parent
heading to dinner
at 4:30

And you avoid eye contact
with other middle aged children
which seems odd
except maybe none of us
are completely comfortable
with these decisions
we’ve made.

August 4, 2013

The Final Elm

Maybe it was the house north of Steele Hill
or the one southwest of East Afton
but it was the one on a road so insignificant that even
the big atlas didn’t have a number for it

Maybe it was built in the 1930s, as the Depression wound down
or maybe it was built to house a returning soldier,
a once-young man ready for the simple life
of a high plains farmer

Maybe there were elm trees all around, once,
or maybe the trees were only lined up on the west side,
shielding the place from the unending wind

Maybe it was abandoned when the wife died
and the husband did, too, the next winter
or maybe the farmer went broke or sold out to a larger place

but the paint fell away
and the window glass did, too,
and the porch fell down
and the roof caved in

And then the final elm
delivered the coupe de grace
crashing through what was left of the structure
giving it a boost toward oblivion


Farm Road

When I was a kid
I’d spend the drive to my grandpa’s house
in the backseat of our Fairlane
looking at fields
plowed across the land.
With no hills to interrupt the view,
I could see all the way down the rows
until the mounds of dirt
or lines of cotton merged
into a faraway vanishing point.

The scissoring of those rows
one after another after another after another
reminded me then,
and still does now,
of skinny legs striding,
nearly keeping up with our progress.

Center pivot systems,
which can irrigate a half-mile radius
have replaced the old method of draping hoses
into the rows, running well water in rivers
up long dirt appendages.
Now fields are plowed
to match the pivot’s path
as it turns in slow moist circles all summer long.

No more dirt legs pace me on my drive.

For a day or two after a rain
puddles fill roadside ditches.
If conditions are right –
clear sky, no wind, bright sun –
the water will mirror
dirt, telephone poles, crops.

And if you turn your head just right,
or narrow your eyes into a squint,
those reflections will become
a hole, a narrow gash into the center of the earth.

Once the wind picks up –
and the wind always picks up –
the illusion is erased by ripples on the water’s surface.

The dawn was the color that is exactly
between blue and pink while cloud fringes
were rimmed in gold,
like the setting of a gemstone ring.
Last night’s full moon hovered on the western sky,
an opal glowing.
As the sun grew brighter
the moon-opal began to evaporate,
craters disappearing first,
until it was like it had never even
been there to begin with.

The land seems flat enough
until three foggy mornings in a row
show how the mist settles into the county,
surveying the low spots.

The dip at the crossroads that mark the half-way point,
just before the road curves right-then-left
to skirt the water well on the south side,
holds fog,
keeping the well,
and the reason for the curves,

The place where the road
bisects the normally-dry playa lake
is low enough
and broad enough
to contain a foggy nebula
that lingers even when it’s burned off
everywhere else.

And just past the house
where I once saw a farmer,
pitchfork in hand,
walking toward a freshly-dead
German Shepherd in the east-bound lane,
the road dips,
and fog slides down
to hang at the bottom,
mingled, maybe,
with the specter of that dog.

Sun and age and wind plow wrinkles
into the contours of the farmer’s face.
His forehead,
shielded by a faded red cap
from the co-op gin,
stays smooth.

A stray stand of cotton next to the road,
white puffs bright on dry stalks,
looks like a patch
of missed whiskers
on a furrowed face.

The cotton harvest went for months,
well into the wettest winter ever.

The module trucks hauling
huge loaves of cotton to the gin
shed mud onto the road,
leaving clods that traffic mashes
into red-brown cobblestones
so hard that even more snow
doesn’t dissolve them.

Every trip made
by every truck
built up the cobbles
until the road by the gin
was paved over
and driving at highway speed
was unwise.

When dry weather eventually arrived
the weight of traffic
pulverized the cobblestones
turning them to dust
that the next strong wind

From the top of the rise,
the cows look like kiwi seeds
scattered in the bright green winter wheat.

In the east half of the county
unpaved north-south roads
carry bird’s names,
alphabetically – bobwhite, hawk,
nightingale, all the way through quail.

East-west roads
carry the names of animals –
bear, cat, elk, fox
and so forth.

Which brings to my mind –
for this is how I think –
the inevitable intersection:
horse and nightingale.