Friday, February 26, 2010

Popcorn Gypsy

The popcorn gypsy sells scoops of salted popcorn from the round window of his riveted aluminum camper. He spares no kernels in the white paper bags. The silver lake of his camper looks less like a projection and more like a choppy sea. The wooden spindles of the Riverside Motel are trim as film reels. The red and blue awning of the thrift store sneaks around the corner of a jigsaw puzzle into its dog-eared box. On the cover the motorcycle caravan follows Main Street's wide curve. Two bicycle campers share a bag of popcorn on the curb. In the camper, the gypsy dodges the click of a disc. A butterfly leaves the faded murals for the alleys of Prophetstown. White Cloud crosses the Rock River.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Outer Limit

He imagined his days as sculptures
and well they were. He imagined
that he sculpted his days.
He began with the outer limit

of getting a year's worth done in a day.
The day stood a great shape in the afternoon.
He perceived the outline in the dusk.
Wedges and widgets held it in place.

At night he kicked them around
the confines of a book.
He had many recipes for widgets.
It took a fine eye to wrest the variations.

He amplified them with craft.
Quotas obsessed him.
He looked for a paradigm
and a trick to secure production.

Some wedges and widgets he noticed
more frequently. He became friendly
with them and eventually conversational.
Soon their names began with different letters.

He was aware of standing back and looking
at the sculpture when the sculpture collapsed.
Then he was aware of riding away
with the collapsed pieces on his back.

He put the puzzle together again.
Except where the edges once met nicely
now the shapes warped and curled.
He crumpled them into his planner.

Tumbledown Timelines

We improvise the Speedway
through the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
lost in the star won by the Union...
In the distance, the Native Americans
introduce the European settlers to tobacco.
Citizens rebound the identification of hometown heroes.
The jockey steps on the scale to weigh in.
He parades his horse by the checkered mural.
In the grandstand a pair of strange eyes lingers
and moves on through the veil.
The jockey visualizes the final turn into the homestretch.
The fire hydrant is painted scoreboard green.
I travel through the welcome of Louisville to my boyhood home.
The car is caked with limestone dust. The vehicle changes
into the collection of plates I know it as.
     Walk with right.
     When right does wrong
walk on your own.
It's engraved beyond the cabin of Lincoln's Kentucky birthplace.
The lowest branches of the Green River run below
the deepest tunnels of Mammoth Cave.
Outdoors I paraphrase more easily
the myth that is out of reach.
Rickety boards and tumbledown timelines are a fortress.
I take the exam on the same day I instill courage.
I brush my teeth. A pitching change is made.
We listen to the Cardinals win the pennant.


Downtown Memphis is a loop of heavy braided metal
rusted on the cobblestone. Western dawn
spells out a structural "M" on the lights
of the Hernando de Soto Bridge.
At first light, painters return to their scaffolding
above Sun Studios. They letter the Beale Street sound
with fresh paint past W.C. Handy Park
to the Riverfront Loop Trolley.
     Fenders rust a fleet overnight. Elvis,
embroidered in costumes of sequin and crocodile,
volleys gold records. Visitors are the grounds crew.
The entries on the front wall of Graceland
are the brightest Christmas trees in spring.


I ride the Monongahela Incline to the mountaintop
I am from, conquer my fear of heights,
     and dance the dark sky away.
A phoenix sheds a tear as I stop for repair
of chalk variables under cabinet
of dark sky at noon.

Are you Baltimore Oriole or Pirate?
Sail through Pittsburgh glass and steel.


Passing your driveway today,
I wonder why you too are not on the road.
I wonder when we will all gather around
one hearth.
I wonder, out of custom, if you work with your hands
or with your mind.
I wonder at your presence within a tradition
of 230 years.
I wonder at the furniture I see on your front porch.
I wonder at the sounds that have chased you
across the prairie.
A single pearl floats around the corner of my season
into country rusted out of belief.
I wonder if you have any more big decisions to make.
I know I do.

Closer seasons to the heart

The Niagara River runs even
gallon after gallon
into the summer
splashing the feet
of those who run
and all who wait and walk
with ones they love.
Those who amble
and the dreams they have scrambled for
in the closer seasons to their heart
are a ration of summer
in a litany of all travels left to trek.


The warrior carries his bow
to the water's edge.
The last lantern is diffused.
Once, by accident,
an arrow erred,
and a town was born.
The stranger,
dressed in tunic and trousers,
appears sincere to the two chieftains.
The lapis lazuli on the pendant
of Persephone's messenger
catches the moonlight.
Everyone hushes.
We both find the metropolis
in the shallow depression.
Later, developing the image
in separate castles,
I acknowledge
the approaching set of footprints
on the ridge.

Impossible Shores

Droves of minnows
line Highway 61.
Dandelions bloom
into the blue expanse.
Yellow carbon copies disappear
into the world's largest freshwater lake.
I initial the forms and fold them
into the slot for the ranger
at Eagle Mountain.
Tail feathers disappear
around the corner
of Whale Lake.
Water laps at the knees
of the apostle's impossible shores.
Two day trippers beep in agreement
with two road trippers.
On the peak we gaze red crested
into Ontario.

My Ledger

I slumber steps from the tall desk
where I work with my ledger
in my room off the Great Hall.
My entries stand up to the Arctic Wind,
the joining of the annual Rendezvous,
and the fortitude of the Voyageurs.
In my books you will find the orchestration
of the torn and frayed with the tailor made,
the Montreal water routes and the fur trade.
I dress for my chore of recording sorrow and delight
in the northwest of a young nation's expansion.
In the century of the Cree and the Ojibwe
I groom myself in the mirror above the dresser
you stand before in this re-enactment.

Mark Twain Lake

The road is a serve.
The game, volleyball,
stretches out over an empty highway.
The wires give way to a net stretched
between here and the Illinois River Valley.
The anthem hesitates.
Years get confused for a few days.
A keep out sign falls to the floor.
Florida lays low.
Hannibal, aware of the filter,
is neither older nor younger.
The mischievous Huck disappears
through pictures of dead trees at sunset
by Tom Sawyer's plaque in an empty yard.
The family cabin is with the loved books.
Mark Twain Lake, water of the Salt River,
turns to wine in the years 1962 to 1984.

Thunder Bay

Bear, path of fish to the sea,
command of tidings from the beginning:

Lead me through the mountains.
Pledge me snow.
Canopy the forest.

Answer me with company
of coldest lakes.
Stand with me
high above the canyons.

Climb across the sky.
Shine on promise
of home and firelight.

The Elders

My Fathers left a keystone leading to a truce.
The agreement faded. We are angry
at running out of space before glimpsing the city.

Dust swirling in our eyes,
marooned under a skyline,
we walk into your city.

The way is scattered.
My name means be a large Blackhawk.
Cross, and in crossing, find the strength to cross.

All are left alone in the maze.
Gaze into the evening.
Find peace at the end of the day.

We invite you to Eagle's Nest Art Colony.
Bring a blanket. Fold your arms with artists
as we stand on the Rock River Bluffs.

Guest Book

The hobo's prospects drift from the town square -
over every street U.S.A - to the edge of town.
He gathers yellow wildflowers into his steady gaze.
He grabs hold of the ladder and swings onto the platform

of a red passenger car. He walks through the door
and seats himself at a desk. On the desk a guest book
is open to the days when he rode the rails
of the Illinois Central.

He brushes a fly aside, signs a nickname, the number of times
he passed this way, and today's date.
He looks at the last entry. A time worn signature
is scrawled on the leaf. It might be one of his friends.

It might be his own.
It might belong to wildflowers.


No arrows of popularity point here.
I point my camera,
and my reflection appears objectively.
My shadow hurries to cross the strong diagonal.
My real self may be with the water
or sunning with the moss on the tree trunk.
My Ego stands on the stone platform.
I am unwilling to change,
     resolute in this century.

The Lighthouse Keeper

It is an operational myth that each soul,
rich or poor, has to look at their reflection
in the mirror each morning.
Hundreds twist their tie into place.
Thousands solemnly excuse the rule
stating excessive eye contact
with another shows shiftiness, aggression.
Millions have applied to borrow worries
from a self assured smile
that crowds their mirror only yesterday.
Ascend the spiral staircase
to the small room and the radion beacon.
The choppy surface may be a mirage,
only there is so much water.
Chant a passage from an oration,
a summons to those in peril.