your waxen figure

when i think of you
i am struck by how little i know about you
not as much as the year before
which was always

how a person can be real
and yet subsumed
collapsing in on themselves
so they become a black hole
containing everything
our petty, childish hopes

i rarely visit your place now
it has no connection to me
like the waxen figure at the funeral
it represents detachment

we could not find your brother
i don’t even know his name
nor the names of your father or mother
when i asked people shrugged

in this way i prove myself your son
carving myself anew
from whatever material
presents itself
like those delicate foam gliders
cut from hamburger trays
that you taught us to make
when we were little

Moores Hill
June, 2014


still music grows as a lengthened silence unbroken

in this dim room held still
by the wide window and evening music
surrounding our high house, broken
briefly by a distant shouting, then silence
soon filled again by insects that grow
numerous as days lengthen

fed by rain and melt the lawn lengthens
cut down by the labor of the day but still
this evening we witness it grow,
stretching in green fits to its own music
which is to us remarkably like a silence
played on for centuries un-broken

counterpoint and out of time the broken
bass of machinery mumbles down ditches that lengthen
by pistons preserving and saturating the silence
that ties us, briefly, to the nightsong and is still
itself a song, a separate kind of music
the song of killing to make things grow

which is always the way of things that grow
and will in turn one day become broken
one day: this waltz, this music,
the cacophony by which our lives lengthen
will rest on a single note, our sounding boards still,
adding one part to the endless silence

that long waiting, the endless silence
when we no longer grow
sweaty while our rhythms become still
and our plans bear no fruit, broken
as the centuries yawn and lengthen
until the tonic note drops at the end of all music

but tonight with the ordinary music
of folk we fill staves between us and that silence
and let that brief dream of order lengthen
there is time yet for some plans to grow
before everything is broken
before everyone becomes still

long and late we listen to music loud but strangely still,
until the window closes to silence again the sound of sleep un-broken
yet while another night lengthens behind another morning to grow

the lost kite

i was twenty when i had the dream
one of those strong dreams that becomes a memory
so this is also the story of something that actually happened

the details are crisp like the temperature of the new spring air
like the crunch of the broken and dried corn stalks
in the windy field where we walked

she was with me, my twin
who had always been so close to me
alike in looks and temperament

i drove us in my ancient red chevy van
to the field across the street from the house we grew up in
the field where we flew kites in the spring of our childhood
the closest thing to a point of origin that i can identify for anything

and of course we brought a kite with us
one of those plastic grocery store kites that always breaks
there was a static charge in the air
a smell of ozone
some great decision delayed for the moment

i played the string out
and she launched the kite into the air
with a hop and a laugh
the only sound either of us made that I can remember

that is the clearest last image I have of my twin sister
she had the same crooked smile
hair the same lengthy, noncommittal blonde
the same lines of worry between hazel eyes
that stayed around even when she was happy
she was beautiful

the kite flew well and we watched it, taking turns
making it swing and dive
playing out the line as far as it could go
we stayed out a long time

i remember a squeeze of my hand and
her white dress, blurry, disappearing behind the corner of the van
the string, loosed from its plastic mooring
floating up and away
the kite receding

i never saw her again
i woke up sobbing
i mourned for days

twenty years ago now she left me alone
in the field of my childhood
just like that

i tried not to resent the loss
but i went ahead and changed
i grew out my beard
possibly out of spite
possibly i hated her a little

recently, she began showing up again
like nothing ever happened
just like that
that is another way in which we are alike

i saw her around town on my ordinary errands
i glimpsed her once in the display case at the grocery store
she was watching me from the window of the moores hill gas station
she darted away when i approached

and now she has finally found my home
i encountered her in the field behind the blackberry bushes.
she’s older now but still looks just like me
i asked her to come inside and she followed me in
she just hangs around in the kitchen
she hasn’t spoken yet

i have no idea what she wants from me

Moores Hill
June, 2014

willard harris

grandfather harris
i just learned that you have a first name

i have never seen you
to me you were only a whispered
story of a house painter
drunken broken back
from a long fall

i think of my sister
now a house painter
her injuries

mom always said
you were a hobo
i decided long ago
this was her romantic fiction
you were just a bum

her narrative has ended
and for this reason
i am curious
about her origin story
so i ask my father because he is now the only one left

from him i learn that you were
intelligent and unreliable
uncomfortable in your own skin
unsure how to behave
like me

i learn
that you were in the great war
that you really were a hobo
that you didn’t lose your hair
that you had a moment of grace at the end
before you got brain cancer

i learned that my parents worried
that i would be, like you
a drunk
or crazy
a bum

mom once said
that you and i are
similar in a way that frightened her

now that i know you better
i feel the same way

Moores Hill
July, 2014

advice for future occupants

no corner is square
you cannot count on that in your plans
measure everything twice
learn how to cheat out to make it look OK
fruit flies like to get into one of the bathroom sink drains
you can knock them back with bleach
but they will return
the space above one of the front porch posts is sheltered from the wind
each year in the spring swallows build their nest in that spot
please let them
there is so much wind, it will try to destroy everything you’ve made
so nail it all down
when the combines bring in the beans from the field, mice arrive
keep a cat around
cats will come to you in the winter from the barn down the road
you will not be able to take them all in
that pile of old plastic and metal junk that is out behind the swamp
will always be there
just let the weeds cover it, hopefully it will disappear in time
the people will not welcome you when you arrive
with covered dishes and cookies
the best you can hope for
is amused detachment
wave at them when you take your evening walk
smile for them – signal clearly that you are only a harmless eccentric
of no harm to anyone
there is a little clear space in the woods on the north side of the property
where nobody can see you
if you ever need a place to cry
you will never, ever finish mowing the lawn no matter how hard you try
just let part of it grow and tell everyone that it is a habitat for birds and butterflies
in the winter, the windows are drafty
you should fix the weather stripping
but you won’t
there is definitely a skunk living up in the woods
and wasps multiply everywhere in the early fall
so watch out
on certain humid nights
millions of tiny beetles will swarm the windows
because they love the light
some of them will get inside

Moores Hill
October, 2014

Observational poetry about the American middle west.