no one mows the hills here.

the grass in wilted clumps shines green,

just laying there for whoever.

dogs and vagrants. cyclists. the birds.

anyone bold enough to chance the cobbles.

tomorrow, maybe, 23rd will be impossible,

iced over and white. this is the last moment

folks up on the hill will venture down

in search of coffee or the grocery salad bar

while the grass is still so green and ready.

so acquiescent. so deeply itself.

Notes from the road, 12/28/2014

I find canals deeply satisfying to watch, especially in the rain. The roads around my parents’ home pass by several of them. They wind between subdivisions and converge in a marshy area, surrounded by soccer fields. On a recent visit, I wake to the sound of heavy drizzle on a Sunday and take my coffee out to the porch to watch the water coming down.

After breakfast, we drive to church. Rarely does anyone in that area live near where they shop, or worship, or study; everything in Houston is far. I ride in the backseat because I relish the chance to sit and quietly look. Drops on the window. Millions of tiny rings on every patch of standing water. Green and brown and gray things, soaking it into their surfaces or sluicing it away.

Between drainage collection pools, my father explains the difference between the marsh hen and the duck to my mother. You can look at the beak and know immediately, but there are many other differences, he says. If you have the chance for closer observation. My mother says she read somewhere how canned goods at Wal-Mart are increasingly sourced outside of the United States.

I watch a hundred small birds rise and circle the nearest pond. One egret stays behind, waiting. Red light, gas station, drainage canal. Dead grass, dead grass, scrub oak, palm. A flock flies low among power lines and settles together in strings. The same birds, or new ones.


Slope. Tangent. Rise over run.

Even celestial choirs cannot sing a simple line.

Nature snarls herself. Look:

Convoluted nebulae,

Linen drying on a line.

Laundry involves negotiation.

The rope stretched taut, the wheeling wind

Converse, with all of us hanging on

Billowing huge, then floating back.

From high enough, the whole yard disappears.

Far enough out, the planet gets lost,

One more piece of the whole.

Hanging sheets becomes

An important decision.

Gathering them in folds despite the cosmos,

In the face of it,

Strengthens the will.

Give me a sign. Hand it to me

So I can smell it.

I want to be sure someone will gather me in.

When the sun explodes and the wheel turns,

I want deft hands and a wicker basket.

I want to smell like the wind.


A sheet metal screw with a combination head

Winking among the dustbin refuse

Tells something cryptic, fateful, hard to understand.

Noticing it takes you half a continent away

To a garage lined with coffee cans

Filled with screws, or nails, or wingnuts.

Belts, bits, washers, bards or anchors. Tacks.

Dad never would’ve thrown away a screw.

You think of great-grandpa Newton’s shed

Out behind the tomato patches

Where every wall the the entire floor held cans

Of baby doll heads, geegaws, bobs and springs.

The story goes, when he first saw it, your father

Lost his breath and had to lean against the door

In admiration.

You remember

How your mother loved to recount that moment

To all the cousins, how her husband and grandfather

Had been cast from the same thrifty mold.

All of us piled into that linoleum-lined kitchen and ate

Crispy catfish, winning tomatoes, mile-high meringues.

She seemed to tell it every time,

Until Grandpa died and the shed got tore down

And Grandma moved to Sunset Senior Care.

And everyone stopped driving out to Oklahoma so much.



You paused this morning
After the coffee finished making,
Silent and staring at eggs on your plate.
Deep currents changed course,
A riptide beneath the surface
Pulled you back five years or more.
They say swimming across it
Is your best bet. Think perpendicularly.
Just keep swimming until the pull slackens.
You heaved a great sigh,
And pulled on your boots, and left,
Swimming hard out past the breakers.


When one thinks of one’s better friendships —
noble individuals who make their own piecrusts,
laugh into their tea, listen to Bob Dylan
in the morning, Nina Simone at night,
and invite friends over often —
who doesn’t feel a mean itch?
I dream of a big pile of cash.
Let’s say it’s a tip jar on a low counter,
an irresistible set-up:
busy proprietor, waitstaff out smoking.
The patrons seem kind, probably dog owners,
some with their shopping and one with a baby.
And that easy money within arms’ reach.
I know what I want.
I will steal those tips and I will run like hell,
pursued by that gently balding shopowner,
those smiling men with soft hands,
those compassionate women.
I will outdistance them all and invest my spoils
in a deep unworthiness, red with tinted glass,
fast as a midlife crisis
and fueled by resentment.
I will punish every loving gesture
With vast withdrawal;
I will blaze a new highway into sun-scorched wilderness.
Eventually I will break down, alone,
and crawl hands and knees
towards some new town with unfamiliar shops,
and sit in the gutter of deprivation
regarding someone else’s life.