Days Like This Are Necessary

New & Selected Poems
BkMk Press-UMKC 2009
$16.00 (Cover and inside art by Mike Sleadd)


The Paseo

-for Federico Garcia Lorca
The last flung-back, bullet struck

moment on an arid Andalusian slope

of the Spanish Civil War;

a soldier’s death caught

in shades of black and white,

his body halfway falling back forever

toward his shadow, his rifle pointed

at heaven, his head turned away,

already forgetting to tell us the way.

A woman’s gaunt upturned face,

lips drawn back from her teeth, a forehead

of plowed wrinkles, her eyes straining

to find the sewing-machine hidden

in the sky, clouds being stitched

together with threads of fear,

and we know what happened,

the dusty, dive-bombed rubble

of Barcelona, the child at the slope

of her exposed breast

nursing on oblivion.

In the city where I lived one summer

oaks rose in civil explosions of leaves.

Branches arbored the boulevards

over the speeding cars and trucks

that had somewhere more important

in mind, work or love, not the quaking

heart of an air raid siren.

Mostly it was Friday,

maybe Saturday evenings, that I drove

the Paseo as it was called, the body of asphalt

releasing the day’s mesmerizing heat.

Along the way, fountains reared horses

and breached dolphins, spouting a moist

eternal glitter, surrounded by groomed

green esplanades where I might stroll

an equally endless time. In one

breath paseo simply means ride,

and in a different one it means

take him for a ride, the end of one

language and the beginning of another.

House of Turtle
I can’t tell you where to start, maybe I don’t know,

or maybe I’m simply not ready for the responsibility,

though it has nothing to do with not wanting to help,

nothing to do with all the possible guilts that sweep

over us for not having loved enough, or been present

enough, or even not having stopped the car and moved

the turtle off the road, and finding the flattened mess

when we returned, having watched in the rearview

mirror another driver intentionally swerve. We must

take into account another time it was hopeless,

of just pointless, when we had not yet surrendered

hope, when the pond by the highway was drained

for a new apartment complex, the backhoe with its

claw sunk for the night into the breached embankment,

waiting for morning to again swallow another mouthful

of earth and spit it out. What more could be done,

the quitting-time traffic no longer able to dodge

those orphaned by the air, who crawled for other waters,

and over the asphalt the hundred or so moss-backed

shells were cracked and savaged flat. Perhaps this is

just a warning, like the children standing in a down-

pour shouting over whether running or walking

through the rain will leave them drier, even as the rain

falls harder, drenching their most refined arguments.



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