May 24, 2017

John Yohe

MID-JULY TRIPOD LOOKOUT

around the rock island
butterflies aggregating
rubbing antennae

two robins attacking
a squirrel in white bark pine
for collected nuts

blue grouse startles
barely flying from a doug fir
into sage and lupen

light southwest wind
keeps flies off the catwalk
playing guitar on a bench

no clouds just one hawk
circling high in warm air
over High Valley

hummingbird hovers
snatching gnats from around radio antenna
dispatch broadcasting weather

monsoonal moisture
bringing thunderstorms by Sunday
chance of lightning

thinking about days off
in Boise with girls and women
emailing reviews

what to do come snow
where to live or travel
in October

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

__________

John Yohe: “On and off, I’ve worked for the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service for sixteen years as a firefighter and now a fire lookout.” (website)

May 22, 2017

Jane Wheeler

PLAYING WITH MATCHES

They are hard to find, the strike anywhere kind
with the white tip you taught me to light
against the zipper of my jeans when I was six.

Once you set our kitchen aflame
hid in the long grass behind our house watching
it blaze, more fascinated than afraid.

Now, in the waltzing glow of my woodstove
I dare a safety match to flare,
flick it with my thumbnail and wonder:

Did your hands shake? Did you drop the box,
scatter matches like pick-up-sticks across the floor
before you fired up that Bunsen burner

and inhaled?

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

[download audio]

__________

Jane Wheeler: “For 25 years I issued driver’s licenses, titled vehicles, gave road tests, vision tests, renewal tests. Yes, I am the person who took that awful photo of you, or made you bring back your proof of insurance, or refused to renew your license because you had unpaid tickets. Although very few of my poems are directly related to that experience (no one would believe them), many are based on the people I met. All of them are short, written and revised in between customers.”

May 19, 2017

Cindy Watkins

SOBRE AMOR

I still remember the first time
I caught him at it
Me crossing the street
Him in the truck with the
Slut puertorriqueña popping her gum
Popping his belt
Her head popping against the wheel
As I came through the window
All five feet celosa.

His clothes in la calle
The kids crying for papi in the yard
I love you I love you
You fucking bitch
You cunt puta
I love you I’m sorry
Then he did it
Backhand right across the cheek
I shattered a corona on his head
Chased him around the table
Fucked him on it
I had never been alive before.

I got a job en la factoría
So I could watch him do it
Touching them on the arm gently
With his grimed hands
Butterscotches for las morenas
He let the white girls slip his tools
Out of his belt, laughing
Mira I’d say to my friends mira
Mira el sin vergüenza
Later in the night I’d bite
And bite and bite his shoulder bloody
I love you salt
I hate you iron
It’s been twenty six years of it
The magic’s going, it’s getting hard
To care about las putas jóvenes
It’s getting hard
To get them to wink back
It’s getting hard
To get it hard
It’s getting hard
To lay the knife down
And get on the table
Sometimes I think that there’s
Only two ways it can end
Now that the kids are gone
Either one day I’ll catch up to him
And take a blue light drive
Or I’ll say mira querida
You’ve worked hard, retire
Bastante bien for now
And take up knitting

But my hips y mi cola
Say I’m still young
I run five miles a day
He wears reading glasses
Takes a fiber supplement
But I’m not ready yet for
Spectacles or regularity.

The newest mechanic
Cabello rizado and shy smile.

The fresh cuts on his
Bare chin say
He’s ready to learn
About love.

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

__________

Cindy Watkins: “I have, for the past four years, been a poultry slaughter and processing inspector with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. The actual day-to-day minutia of the job is important but not necessarily spellbinding. However, in the course of my inspection duties I’ve traveled to a lot of different factories, which have the most diverse makeup of human beings that I have ever encountered. There is a lot of blue collar struggle, a lot of cultures clashing, a lot of loaded language, and most pleasurably, a lot of different speech cadences born from a multiplicity of domestic and international origins, which is pretty rich soil for poetry. I compose in my head at work, I jot down striking phrases. There’s an attitude towards domestic violence that is not approving, but is nonetheless casual—it is a thing that happens. Childcare is often managed by couples working opposing shifts and trading off the kids at shift swing, which creates tension in relationships. Different groups within this very closed environment frame discourse about each other in interesting (and problematic) ways. There are layers and layers of power differentials. There are unexpected beauties. A woman sings gospel on the trim line on a Sunday shift. A girl teaches me Mexican tongue twisters. The ribcage of a carcass looks like a cathedral. There is a man whose name is Morning.” (twitter)

May 17, 2017

Pepper Trail

AT THE FORESTRY INSTITUTE, HANOI

They are modestly proud of it
Their bomb crater, behind the greenhouses
They lead visitors out through the re-grown grove
Warning of mud and roots, where it waits
Water-filled, its clay walls braced with bamboo
Round as a temple cistern

December 1972, more bombs fell on Hanoi
Than on London during the Blitz
You can see the photos in the War Museum
On Dien Bien Phu Boulevard, by the Lenin statue
Block after block of small buildings, flat
Nothing standing but the people

A few steps from the crater is a bunker
Rounded, half-buried in leaves and soil
You can go inside and sit
Imagine the forester hiding there
As his rosewood trees burst and burned
Holding in his arms a metal box of seeds

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

[download audio]

__________

Pepper Trail: “For the past eighteen years, I have worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a forensic ornithologist, identifying bird remains that are evidence in wildlife crime investigations. This strange, rewarding, and troubling job brings me face to face with death every day of my working life. It has also taken me to places like Vietnam, where I worked on combatting the illegal wildlife trade, and wrote ‘At the Forestry Institute, Hanoi.’ I spend much of my free time in nature (my graduate work involved field studies of animal behavior), and many of my poems reflect my close observation of the living world.” (twitter)

May 16, 2017

K.F. Hastings

FIFTIES SAN FRANCISCO: A CHILD’S TOUR

Walk to the Palace all twisty turny, down this way and that,
dance like the bloomers hanging overhead, steaming sour dough in hand,
squeeze through the hole in the fence, gather decaying angel heads to breast,
feed the fattened pigeons, the angry-eyed swan moving like a big question
over the crumbling dome’s reflection,

walk on rail lines, step gravel step, sucking in eau d’ creosote and briney bay,
cross the daisy freckled green and lose your red buckled shoes,
pad down slippery stone steps to toe numbing water,
nab one starfish, two, dazzling among the barnacles,
side-stepping crabacles,

stuff one in each pocket and amble home,
lay them out in the desert darkness of your under-bed constellation
and when the accuser comes in, nose a’whiffing, saying
you’ve been off the block again, stare up
all platter-eyed and sinless,

and like wavelets slapping oompa time,
like low clouds kissing whatever they find—even
inmates in their island yard—
whisper
Honest, Mama, no.

from Rattle #16, Winter 2001
Tribute to Boomer Girls

__________

K.F. Hastings: “I was raised by San Francisco, rather than in it. I am intrigued by the ways imagination informs place, and how place affects imagination.”