Posts for June 13, 2018




Dear Gordon (1918 – 2007)
         I was your next-farm neighbor for only six years (1974 – 1980),
but your influence on my life remains in how I view the world,
in how I’ve come to confront my own bull-headed contrariness, 
and even in the accent of my speech. (Our accent, I think, is the  
very essence of how we present ourselves to the world.)
         When Ellie and I and two other families bought the 120 acre
Mastin farm in the community of Stonewall on Kabler Mill Road
(which ended at the North Fork of the Licking River) we were like 
fish out of water. City folk come to start a hippie commune. The 
half dozen or so families who farmed the area thought the circus
had come to town. But not you, Gordon. Your interest was piqued,
and your sly smile was always a welcomed sight when we had gotten 
ourselves into a jam with the tractor, runaway pigs, a failed crop
of cash peppers, the huge silver poplar that fell across our gravel
lane onto our barn. We messed up nearly everyday and kept you 
highly entertained. But it didn’t take us long to realize that our
best stroke of luck was having you as our neighbor. There were
times when, for one or the other of us, you literally saved our lives.
         But as important as you were for our survival, it was your
story telling skills that brought us into that time and place. We
didn’t know it then, but we were a bunch of lucky youngsters
who stumbled into the tail end of a lively and vibrant culture
that had existed there for over a hundred years – Kentucky
tobacco farming and its success when the Burley Cooperative
was established. In another two decades it would vanish as sure
as the telephone landline. 
         Gordon, I don’t think you’re surprised to get a letter from 
me. Though I moved to town (Mt. Olivet – pop. 250) about seven
miles away, I visited occasionally and we would have us a jam
session of stories, you tellin’ & me listenin’.  I’ve recounted some
of those wild escapades all the way to Paducah and back. 
I have so many but the hour is growing late and I’m tuckered 
out. I’ll write again real soon, maybe tomorrow, to recount
“My first chaw of baccer” or “How the pig got too fat to get out
of the barn” or ” When Stanley took the goose eggs to town” or
“Wild trip to Vegas with the Sheriff Hamer to get a prisoner”
or “Bullnozer fiasco during the Great Storm of ’78” and other
highlights from Stonewall, KY.
         You were the best Gordon. 
         An honor to have known ya, 

from “What Passes, What Remains”
by Wendell Berry

This is the place in which
the living live in the absence

of all who once were here,
their stories kept a while
in memories soon to be gone
the way of the untongued stories
preceding ours, reduced
to graves mostly lost
and a few found strayed 
artifacts of stone.




Temporary Satisfactions

My father called me an idiot

for tracing the constellations on your back

when I should be buried 

in a drunken daze 

within textbooks and eraser shavings.


on those days I etch my markings harder than I intended

as a reminder

that I won’t leave you behind.


When you hide the marks of rejection

with your skinny folded arms,

I pass by your obscured being

and wonder why you are hiding


only to see your self-inflicted blemishes

vitiate all the past constellations
that have found a home

buried in the warmth of your skin.


perhaps you did not like them 


perhaps you did not need them 

as much as I did


By then I could only pretend 

to not see them

so I can justify scratching more

under the skin of your acne scars

below your muddled birthmarks

in careful

thinly precision

I dedicate myself to my work

so time would no longer
be our enemy.

So I could perhaps become a creature of permanence
on a body that I no longer recognize as mine

But it does not take long to find 
it was only a temporary satisfaction 

a mere product of reckless sadness

By then I could only wish
to take back all the time I wasted
painting every dip of your body with the night’s constellations
that I no longer bother
to see or acknowledge



By the/and Bye – etc

By the Bye – When the rollercoaster stops just ahead of where you have to get off.
By and Bye – When you take your leave of someone at the door and find out you parked next to each other.
Buy the Bye – When you pay the check early just to get out
Bye the Bi – When you saw Madonna in Dick Tracy and your sexual preference became more defined.


Night’s Calamity

My soul longs for increase

Fight harder 

Love deeper 

Breaker of chains 

Discerning truth


My frame is wavering

Eyes weighted

Head pounding

Mind manic

House quiet


My soul reaches for the unlimited depths

My body, just a pillow

My soul never sleeps

But my figure must

My soul will paint the walls of my dreams


One depth to another



A new tomorrow 



On a blanket in the yard
She surrounded herself with kittens and baby ducks
Those who were soft and loving
Without a price.
Holding them close
Watching them play she let herself love them.
Summer caressed her with its sun
And gentle wind.
The others were at work
 Were away from her
She could embrace the time
Store up gentle heat 
Enjoy the smell of kittens
Hold the fuzzy ducklings
Listen to their peeping 
Sleepy sounds.
Collect the building blocks for dreams.


Still Kicking

I ate dinner with my friend’s family
While tripping shrooms
They laughed about bobbing for apples
And it was cool
Everything seemed normal
But I was not
Doug looked at a picture of a bear ,


A Draft

what makes you feel full?

by which I mean, 

what makes you feel simultaneously

soft and aflame 


grass cut in Kentucky neighborhoods

by men who lay across porches when they are finished

pale bellies exposed to blue collar suns


rose of Sharon

grown by my mother for my grandmother of the same name

and blueberry bushes protected from rabbits


her own freckled fingers 

a face framed in golden curls mimicking mine

picking a guitar owned by my father and his best friend before him 


twin beds pushed together

and a woman who sees no problem in sharing them 

a twenty friendship built inside chip wrappers and unfolded laundry


frankness of questions already answered

and two am breakdowns fueled by Seagrams and seven up

camaraderie in parallel sexualities and a song in a minor key


sunday morning purple robed poetry

a girl unable to choose and unwilling to try

a journal shared in the endings


a girl aflame with a head aflame

softly shut doors in the wake of tears

the solace of being on the same page


an always falling asleep 

a settling down and a picking back up

girls made of the written word and thrift shop shorts


audacity in women or one

who will tell me she loves me with her mouth on mine for the first time

an amiable trading of control


vests in camouflage 

and kindness unencumbered by disguises 

a southern savior from the fear of stepping out


metaphors exchanged across text messages

and a mesh shirted sophistication

a refusal to filter compliments in the interest of appropriate


a beer with my name on it drunk with whispered library words

an agreement to sit in the rain and wash things off

the moments between admonishment spent lying in the grass


nightstands whose contents never change

cheap whiskey through a straw

jokes prescribed in the wake of social anxiety


a painted index fingernail in the interest of a quiet statement 

scheduled make outs at six months

a family dinner with a favorite song on the way there


a girl with pride in her boots but not her A in organic chemistry

sleepovers spilling into adulthood

a best friendship begun within a best friendship


yellow cake and pink flowers

a disbelief in lactose intolerance

an expectation of intimacy in strangers


quiet religion

but a loud humanness

a love for cats and other small things


a jar full of pennies from heaven 

tomato plants with female pronouns

love notes left on the back of finals schedules


being okay alone in red shorts

a bonding over fresh fruit and Pavement 

shared silence in cluttered living rooms


dogs howling in unison

protest posters

my head in her lap

hers in mine

my mother’s blue tunic

the secrecy of the word holler


piles of cousins

green mountains

the smell of his woodshop

old violins

new loves



I As the Glue

If life is a picture frame
gilded in youth
patinaed with years
I as the glue
smiled every new detail into place
while brokering breached corners’ return
entreating squabbles’ chips back to rim  

but glue
ages     dries
cracks     cries
breaks down     tires
as fragments


Haiku Wisdom #1

Do not seek to take
What has not first been given
That is not love.


The Mango Tree – For My Nicaraguan Girl

She said that she was off to see
A friend who had a mango tree
She was welcome to some fruit
Quickly, then she’d better scoot

I can see her in my mind
Swaying in her unique rhyme
Wearing colors bright to see
Heading for that mango tree

When she got there, all around
Mangos lying on the ground
The tropicals she told to me
Are best for growing mango trees

Really wish she would go back
Don’t care about her mango lack
She puts her life into her hands
When going out to trod the land

She got her fill and headed home
Then she called me on her phone
I’m alright mom – really am
I have bread and mango jam

Water jugs and boxed-up milk
Rice galore and a bag of kelp
So don’t worry – I’m okay
I love it here – and here I’ll stay