Friday, April 27, 2007

a bit of nonfiction composed at mile-marker 69 on I-88, West, June 10, 2004

I am no lover of Illinois. This may be because of my limited experience of it, since I really only ever move through it to get somplace else. But I move spitefully. It is to me a gap of the mundane--a space of mediocrity between two beautiful lands: Wisconsin and Iowa. Of course I know that many people find my affection for Iowa as something beautiful, odd (or worse), and it may be true that I think so only because it is my home land. But I reply to them in two ways: next time you drive through Iowa, look out the window; and, it at least appears to me that Illinoisians agree with the unattrativeness of their state, since they vacation almost exclusively in the neighboring ones: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and mine. Besides, this is about my observations, and when I drive through Illinois I do it as fast as possible, scorning the flat, greenish-yellow thing.

But today I am forced to observe it a little closer: I ran out of gas on the inter-state. I had planned to continue sprinting through it to Iowa, stopping at the first Iowan rest-stop, praising my home state with the ferver of a returning victor, and congratulating myself on making it through a land that would be more appealing if it were desert.

But from this slower vantage point I can see across it. As I approached this spot I had thought that there was nothing nearby but a farm-house. Looking out my window now I can see that that farm-house is really part of a community. North of it are several more, larger silos, a water tower, even what appears to be frequented train-tracks. The surrounding area is vast spaces of corn, scattered trees, and scattered houses, and in between these spaces sit small civilizations, each one like, and yet unique from the others. And if I hadn't already taken all this into account as a given, I might have to reconsider my opinion of Illinois.

Monday, April 23, 2007

An untitled poem

This was first published by Weber State University.

the olding man
by the well
kneeling to drink
of an absent love
spins off words and rhymes
and kneels to taste another
looking for a place to stay
but finding none
he sits in this place
as the story becomes
throwing up leaves
and catching them before they fall
and bending to lift another
tonight he swims
in earthen ponds
tonight the night’s his brother
tonight he sings to morning dew
tonight he dreams of mother
the water splashes on his face
with no reflection
and his hair is entangled
in the dreams he slept on
and life is passing
and night is to fly
for morning comes on
say goodbye

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Union Pacific Line

I walk roads
of wood
and rock
and bone
built by beat up hands
and leveled home
smoothing hill
and breaking heart
through thickening heat
of engine start
and regular pound
of hammer chime
on steel shod stone
where life greets ground
walks Union Pacific Line

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Evening Painting

"Painting" in the title of this poem is a verb.

it snows
on window panes
like bad fortunes
on trees
in warm companies
and paint
wooden canvas
and grassen earth
and warm hearth
to glow
in the wheated field
a fox prints
touching painting
against the
hardened ground
‘neath covers
of wooded sky
she sleeps
with nut and corn
and blanket tail
from early frost

to evening contentment

a title-less short story

Two men met on the road there headed different directions. They sat apart from each other, both more interested in his own time off the road and away from the wet, fallen leaves, and the wind that broke against the door and crept in the seals, than any other man who has not the same power to bless as coffee poured from a vending machine. The cold was outside and the coffee was hot inside. It warmed the hands and fingertips through the paper cup as it did the mouth and the lips and the belly.

Wind takes from you to the point of the soul. It will take your breath, immediate memory, flesh and bone, and leave a naked soul. Warmth is redressing. This need to redress is perhaps one of the only reasons for thinking there is such a thing as the soul.

A weatherman carried on from a TV screen overhead. The broadcast predicted more wind and more rain, not here but there, and not there, but just there, though it was not just there but here, and here seemed to be everywhere. Thunderstorms are moving into here, and winds are up to so many miles an hour.

Coffee is hot, and chocolate creeps into the stomach a healer. And both men held their cups in the same loose grip, and both took everything around them with a slow, deliberate breathing.

The weather went on predictably. The trees swayed and mourned and lost their leaves to the wind and the wet road, and passing trucks tore even more from them. The pines bent and sagged at their tops, unable to shed their clothes to relieve the strain. And the sky stirred restlessly, and birds lay low in the grasses and did not fly from the timbers. The air filled with leaves one moment, and they all stuck to the ground, or on cars, where they landed, and then they were gone. And then the rain came harder in passing sheets, and the pines whined and bowed, but the others leaned, relieved. And the earth kept the water for them, and the shed was fine, and the winter would pass.

The men crinkled empty wrappers in their hands. One man rose to feed himself again. The coffee was cooling, but the warmth had been got, and there would be more to be got later. But a man got himself another cup; with this wind there would soon be no more leaves or nothing to stop it, and all a man would have was his body, and all for protection was warmth. So he would drink another before he made him face it.

And then a man was no longer hungry or cold, and this shelter was all used up against the soggy freeze, and a man had a truck and a road. So he got him up, and he stayed at the door. The wind beat against it, and it rattled in its setting. He watched it push against the trees, and the rain, in waves, against the woods and the road and the window and his truck. He was warm, and the cold waited out the door. He sighed. And it was met by an affirming groan from the other man, close to “Yep,” but cut off, and so closer to “Yet.”