Selected Poems

January Bargains
He slouches beside his wife
in her Sunday go-to-meeting polyester pants
and her quilted, sensible coat,
unbuttoned for department store warmth.

She shuffles through crowded sale racks
of pajamas and bath robes
while he looks over the shoulder
of his plaid, pearl-buttoned cotton shirt–
left, right, left again
beyond the black lace bras,
fearing notice.

Cocking his weight from one
well worked boot to the other,
he looks as baffled as a calf
on the wrong side of barbed wire.

“Look,” she says,
holding a pink flannel gown
with tiny rosebuds and satin ribbons
against her comfortable body,
smiling coyly.
“Fifty percent off
plus another twenty for seniors.
Can’t sew them that cheap.
What do you think?”

“I think,” he sulks,
“I’d rather be outside
holding somebody’s horse
in the rain.”

Farm Wife
Heat shimmers above the furrowed ground
as the farmer, tractor-hungry from winter’s wait,
slices through the cornstalk littered crust.

Grey gulls, swirling like whirlwinds,
follow closely, reaping their spring harvest.
At the row’s end, he pauses.
Sunshine warms his weathered face,
and he fills his lungs with damp earth smell,
as rich as life and rooted in his soul.

She watches from her kitchen window,
lifts the sash, and shares with him
the fragrant breeze.

the newborn colt
legs crooked as cowpaths
whiskers his mother’s flank
searching her warmth
for strength

she turns her head to him
eyes curious, yet warm
and tongues his curly wetness

a hush of clouds
soothes the sun
and this April morning

even the Nebraska wind

Tucking In
I lean and listen
in darkness
for iambic breaths,
untangle mixed metaphors
from rumpled sheets.

Stubborn as pentameter,
unruly as rhyme,
finally they sleep,
good poems typed and signed.

The meaning of my day
merges with form,
and my symbols dream,

Last Fling
The last of March
just when the hope of crocus
breaks from winter’s clutch
and pussy willows
tickle children’s cheeks,
it snows.

Not the bold blizzards of January
with flakes as cruel as dry ice
and cold that freezes thought,
but a pitiful last fling
that falls shorter than
an old woman’s pitch at horseshoes.
Even the horses don’t hump their backs
or tail the wind.

Wetter than a mad hen
and heavier than April taxes,
it cringes on the fenceposts
and, whimpering,
mats upon the ground.

Gurney’s Promise
With snow chains on his jeep
the mailman delivered
Gurney’s Spring Seed Catalog
at three degrees below today.

Begonias blossom on the cover
and between the pages sprout
Big Boy tomatoes
and Tendercrop bush beans.

In my garden
snow drifts climb
the fences like tomato vines
and a sprinkler rusts
among the brittle stalks of marigolds.

Forgetting August heat and weeds,
the hours of snapping beans
and podding peas,
I long for the fecund smell of earth
and plan my rows.

Frovin Rasmussen,
boasting of his eighty years,
drove from Rockville,
his trunk full of home-grown honey
and tools to tune my old piano.

Like one of his clover-stuffed bees,
he flew from box to box
to find well-used replacements,
chording C’s and G’s
and sharpening flats,
pollen from the old piano
yellowing his fingers.

He worked all afternoon,
and in the hive of wires
made the notes yield.

Country Sunset
Tonight I noticed
that the sun
looked like an egg yolk.

I did my chores and searched
for more poetic metaphors
but nothing came,

only the cats,
winter-fluffed and hungry,
hurrying from the loft
for steaming bread and milk,

and the horses,
crunching in on snow-balled hoofs,
whiskers tipped with frost,
stumbling on the frozen ground,

the sparrows
playing tic tac toe
on the woven wire fence,
waiting for spilled grain,

and the dog,
too busy tracking tomcats
to notice the yellow spell
cast over snow and stalks.

The chores complete,
I tracked through drifts
back to the house.

The sun,
still an egg yolk,
hid behind the barn.

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