After Last Call

The big dog greyhound
just left going south
& the cops picked up
an  eighty-five year
old escapee from a rest
home, it’s twelve o’clock
almost a full moon & the
wind whips waves some-
where in the north Atlantic
sea, there’s three nickels
on this bar & my wife,
your smile this night is
worth a sun tan in the Fiji
islands or love after this
barstool is one hour up
turned & the old janitor
sweeps the floor while
most of this town sleeps
and the greyhound whines
twenty inch tires still
four hours from San Francisco

We were criminals

Willard’s great Uncle Carl had died the night before
& that same night my own Aunt Pat
Who had raised me from nine years on, passed..
Willard’s great uncle Carl had raised
Willard’s Dad & his Uncle Buck,
Both of these men had dropped from black night sky
Into Normandy, as paratroopers to liberate France

Thirteen days later my father drove a tank
onto the Norman beach for same purpose

& they all made it back, after putting fear
In the hearts of Hitler’s supermen,
Willard senior to fall timber all his life
& Buck to run his cows every summer
In the High Cascades, my father drilled oil wells

We’d somehow met up that night &
With differently the same kind of memories
& grief in our hearts we drank beer,
With our pizza at a parlor, that had been a pasture
Back in high school

Cops came in later & thought
Our demeanor somehow unfit
& being new & not knowing us as locals decided
We were criminals,
This decision struck both of us
As remarkable & when
The cops followed us into the restroom
As we were departing
We had words with them..
& we were not kind
& left them bristling as we
Got into Willard’s old ’59 Chevy
With its sideways teardrop tail lights

I told Will, ‘ We’ve not seen the last of these pricks,’
We were 70s hippies then, & I hid our pot deep
Under the car seat when we left the parking lot

One mile out of town they pulled us over,
Spot-light on us & a bullhorn
Ordering us out of the car..
I could hear the tremolo of a wavering voice
Behind the blinding light & over the
Baseness of the bull horn &
Over the roof of the car,
I loudly told Will to move slowly..
As I knew they had guns on us..
& they did..

Twenty years later I’d been hunting ducks
With Willard’s brother Greg on Nygren’s Reservoir
& afterwards we went to the old homestead,
That his Uncle Carl had left
Only shortly before His death
& the old family farm had since sold to a cattle company,
& cattle men had not gotten around to razing the place
& no one had lived there in that time
Pots & pans still hung on a wall
Above the wood cook stove, & the old man’s long johns
Creased with 20 years of gravity hung in the bedroom
From the hook in the wall
& a dusky-footed wood rat had mounded
A large four-foot high stick nest
That covered all of Greg & Willard’s old Uncle Carl’s bed
Golden light diffused through the old house that fall afternoon
& the long empty bedroom, with a few pictures &
A calendar on the wall from 1965 &
I found this sight hauntingly beautiful

& yes, the cops were afraid of us that night
Thirty-six years ago..

A Psalm

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
followed movements with
my eyes as a sail fills
with wind and felt the jolt
like a prow taking
its cut through a wave

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
whose slow surreptitious movements,
the turn of an ankle
short measured steps in high heels
a twist of mouth
a glance at a book shelf
or through it

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
whose silent voices echo chapters
of humility and respect
as peasant dresses
and pigtails flow by with ghosts
of Marilyn Monroe movie memories
and placid book cover art

"Marilyn at Forty" Oil painting by Ted Barr

“Marilyn at Forty” Oil painting (1986) by Ted Barr
James Kelly Collection

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
rolling book carts to proper shelves
cataloging history and
time and gossip and art

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
crossing legs out of terry cloth dresses with
rouged cheeks and
red elevated lips
taking a book inward
with focus and cognition
while red hair
and white thighs exude
auras of creation

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
as if Sapphos’ lost poems
appeared while I wait for
a tall dark haired woman
to find me here between
stolid wooden shelves
where dreams meet the sea
and hearts have tried
to expose the sky

I’ve been excited by women
in libraries
and have turned pages
of desire toward islands of thought
where there are
rose petaled shores
of sure goodness
and love

Picking up the pieces

Well see— he’d already named the animals!
I didn’t really have anything to do, yes we did
Walk in the garden every evening..
I must admit maybe I was bored & the serpent
Was an intellectual & he made me laugh & I was laughing when I tasted it.
I wanted to change names of some of the animals,
I must admit I never asked if I could,
Neither of them said I couldn’t..
Just seemed like it was a bargain already made, oh he would do anything for me!
& well I didn’t even know that he hadn’t named all the animals
Didn’t find that out til, well
after we were outside & some of these other animals seemed to be intent on eating us
Oh this surprised me, this thing called fear, but I like eating meat!
& now I’m not bored with him any more I must admit
He protects & takes care of me, but these children, oh if I didn’t
Have him, as much as I love them, it would be impossible..
But you know I think someday one of them will kill the other
&  I cannot imagine this..
I do miss those walks
When it was that love was as constant as air..
Now there are only times when I look at him & vaguely remember..
Still he can be bad
Now he growls & once after drinking he hit me & this was not like him &
I bled, & now I bleed regularly &
What have we done?
I killed the snake last week & after I did
I heard him laugh from the grove in the garden we can’t go into any more,
But then again maybe it was from the forest beyond,
& I’m afraid of that place..
I couldn’t tell & anyway I saw the snake again the next day
I know where there are flowers by a quiet pool
Perhaps I could go there and come back?
If I leave him it will be dangerous
Perhaps I’ll go there and come back..
Oh, my heart breaks when he screams in the middle of the night!

I will continue to seek visions and count on my friends to know everything

I dreamed I was in 1962, in a department store dressing room
w/ Lana Turner, who told me she had to adjust
her nylon stocking and didn’t mind
if I looked–and I awoke and remembered that year
I had been in a desk behind the cloak room in my
eighth grade English teachers classroom
(who hated me, and whose name I’ve long ago forgotten)
where I’d  been put for being a smart ass
& was napping & it was really Joanie
& Janet that I had known since they were girls
but but that year they were no longer girls & they really were letting me watch,
skirts hiked up athletic like race horses
w/ black back seamed nylons w/garterbelts
and just above were taught tight heavenly white thighs
pure as driven snow & I remembered that dream ended too…


Sporadic gunfire
in the distance
of the hills,
& the Fall’s hunt
was always
the Octobered drysmell
of chaparral
& that clean mean click
of manzanita breaking
through the drivers,
coming down & out of
far recessed ravines,
where the large
lone black-tail bucks waited
their solitude
for the coming rut,
only to be flushed
out of almost impassable
hiding, & then the high
powered velocity of the crack
of a modern firearm
would deliver the yearly venison
tabled later
in the fall,
perennially seasoned
w/salt & black peppered
for biscuits & gravy,
the crisp taste of the High Cascade,
I remember how,
our bitch border collie shepherd dog
would cower in her corner,
teeth chattering,uncontrollably and shaking,
shaking, at that near& far rifle fire.