Monthly Archives: April 2010

And suddenly I was Nigel

I only got the DVD
To see the fuss
Those forty-four days
Of rancor
And the Damned United

Instead I met
A father and his boys
Brian brash and 30s
Simon ten
And Nigel barely eight
Scything through West Yorkshire
Wipers flailing
Against the heavy rain.

And suddenly I was Nigel
All comics and crooked teeth
Short trousers
Licorice and trust
Wide-eyed at me dad
Tilting at the big world beyond
Our little car.

(After watching the movie: The Damned United)

Moorgate, February 28, 1975

Stomach knotted in
Pride and disbelief
I labored painstakingly
Through two full pages
Of dense black prose
Mourning the loss of
Forty-three people
Just like me

The driver never
Touched the brakes
Never raised his hands
As the train accelerated
Into a brick wall
Yet in his pocket were
Three hundred pounds
To buy his daughter a car
When his shift was done

Was this stupidity or suicide?
Distraction or despair?
At age seven
I learned
We never really know
The contents of
Another person’s mind.

Uncle Lawrence’s Trees

Uncle Lawrence
Had the college plant
A hundred thirty-eight trees
When he began his job
Spindly little things
The mayor called them
Vulnerable yet full of promise
Perhaps for a philosopher
A seedling tree is the best answer
For human frailty
And the limits of our perfection.

Today those small signs of hope
Have grown to more than
One thousand strong
More than even he envisaged
Many of us have flourished
Also in unexpected ways
Watching from the window
He is old and frail
A spindly little thing himself
Folding in upon the promise
And yet he still commands respect
As he implores
For the trees – and all our dreams
Keep them growing
And replace them as they die.


Every other fortnight
Is one magical hour
We can lie here
Sated, luminous
The moon pouring onto our bed
Like the fresh cream
We drizzled over apple cake
The first night we made love.


When normal couples
Go on vacation
The waiters don’t have shifty eyes
International drug rings don’t happen
To be using the same hotel
An evil genius isn’t living up on the hill
Installing a giant laser gun capable of
Melting the UN building
They don’t get run off the road
By short foreign guys on mopeds
Or locked in the basement in a skimpy bathrobe
When all they wanted was a pint of Ben and Jerrys
They don’t get shot at with poison darts
Or find boa constrictors in their beds
The guy from the embassy really is who he says he is
And none of the relics in the local museum
Glow mysteriously in the dark
Or cause one to levitate
There are no Nazis
No Mafia
No monks
No mad scientists
No ancient runes
No secret panels
No digital countdown clocks
No explosions

Just the sun and the sand
And a tall glass with an little umbrella in it
Is that so much to ask?


Kneeling on this
Sun-baked square
Back aching
Between straight rows
I slowly tease
The interloper free
Dividing friend from foe
Tracing backwards
Till I find at length its origin
Buried deep beneath.

This work can not be hurried
Go too quickly
All you do is
Surface work
Snap a dubious vine or two
You gain only temporary victory
The deeper threat remains
Prepared once more to spread
Its sinewy embrace

I ask myself how often
I have moved too fast
Broken off a troubling shoot
All the while avoiding
The deeper work
Which only comes
On dirt-stained knees
And with great patience.

According to the box

According to the gaily slanting letters
On this multi-colored box
Our product make you
Happy pretty too and funny style

As if determined by a cell
Of linguistic terrorists
Dangerously dangling prepositions
Bent on blowing
Fascist grammar up

Or perhaps it was a dozen
Thesaurus-toting monkeys with a typewriter
Who broke into the warehouse
And after swinging from the rafters
Left their longings on the page.

Shakespeare it is not
And yet this phrase compels me
With its newly minted spark
Of awkward mangledness
Funny style I like
But oh to be happy pretty.

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