The Chain Letter (An American Tragedy)

Ohdammit sez John I’m in trouble
so I sed why John?
John sez I got the bill for my insurance
and I haven’t got no money to pay it
cause I won’t get paid for swoking and bailing
Keith Guymon’s hay till next week
I done told him that would be just fine
when he ast a week ago but
LaVerne she went and opened the damn envelope
on a chain letter and I aint got no time
to write out twenty copies
I got to get that hay finished
so what am I posta do now?

Deer Skull


I keep placing my hands over
my face, the fingertips just
resting on the place where I feel
my eyebrows and the fine end
of a bone. My eyes are covered
with the blood of my hands, my
palms hold
my jaws. I do this at dinner.
My daughter asks
Are you all right?
and by a common miracle
when I smile
she knows I am.


I ask her what she will do
after we eat. Sleep she
tells me. But I will clean
the deer skull, wash it.

The Bad Mother

The bad mother wakes from dreams
of imperfection trying to be perfection.
All night she’s engineered a train
too heavy with supplies
to the interior. She fails.
The child she loves
has taken on bad habits, cigarettes
maybe even drugs. She
recognizes lies. You don’t
fool me, she wants to say,
the bad mother, ready to play
and win.
This lamb who’s gone –
this infant she is
pinioned to – does not listen,
she drives with all her magic down a
different route to darkness where

Mythmaking on the Merritt Parkway

Aluminum sky. Only November
Leaks into early frost
Like a ruptured jug
Of gas. I’d rather hold
Onto this road with pliers
Than have another face of you
Frisk my heart. Cool hands,
The touch of every moon
Is crucial and incomplete
As a sponge bath. Leaving
A backbone of lights
Behind me, a blinking string
Of pelts in fox country,

Northern Exposures

You hear the roadhouse before you see it,
Its four-beat country tunes
Amplified like surf through the woods,
Silencing bullfrog and red-tailed hawk,
Setting beards of moss dancing
On dim, indeterminate trees
That border two-lane blacktop.
Docked tonight, you reveal the badge
Of the farmer, that blanched expanse of skin
Where cap shades face, babyhood

The Boston Ballad

TO get betimes in Boston town, I rose this morning early;
Here's a good place at the corner--I must stand and see the show.

Clear the way there, Jonathan!
Way for the President's marshal! Way for the government cannon!
Way for the Federal foot and dragoons--and the apparitions copiously

I love to look on the stars and stripes--I hope the fifes will play
Yankee Doodle.

How bright shine the cutlasses of the foremost troops!
Every man holds his revolver, marching stiff through Boston town.